Skip to main content

The Mirage - notes on Pornography

When I was 14 my family moved to Las Vegas. My high school years were punctuated with soft porn on billboards and taxicabs, though we didn't go downtown very often. When we did walk The Strip, especially past The Mirage (remember it was the 90's and that was one of the biggest hotels in town), my parents cautioned us very directly, "Don't look down in the gutter and if somebody tries to hand you a piece of paper, don't take it! Don't even look at it." The streets of Las Vegas Boulevard were littered with papers, because people were paid to hand out smut. They didn't usually target little girls, but since we were curious and completely naive, my parents warned us and especially my two brothers. This was before the internet. Back in the day, it was easier to caution kids not to look at stuff that would rot their brain.

The Mirage hotel is a cool metaphor. The coppery shiny windows glittered from afar, easily seen from my neighborhood. Often we'd look east toward the big hotels while we were heading to church or school. But we all know a mirage is a lie - it's a shimmery illusion of water in the desert, and it can dangerously lead wanderers away from real water or rescue. It doesn't actually give water or life, just the false appearance of it. When you get up close, you're disappointed that it's gone and you're still thirsty.  I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this analogy and the subject of this post - the empty, dangerous lure of pornography.

For those that don't know, I've always been fascinated by why humans think, feel and do what they do.  I studied psychology in college and earned my bachelor's degree, which included an internship at a state facility in Utah working with teenage boys who had been in trouble with the law. At this juvenile detention center, young men came from Arizona, California and other states. Many had been in gangs or had serious addictions to drugs or, you guessed it, pornography.  Seeing how their addictions were linked to their loss of freedom was sobering for me, and increased my desire to better understand.

This internship took place while my first son was tiny, and the following year I had baby boy #2. I was deeply moved by the teenagers I had met. So I started studying the brain even more, including how it's impacted by pornography. I'm not an expert, but since I have a husband and growing sons that I love and want to protect, it's been my hobby or side gig for many years. I'd like to share a handful of details from what I've learned in the hopes it might help your family as it's helped mine. If your kids are about this age, please start preparing and planning. My boys are big teenagers now, though it seems like two minutes ago when they were small. 


My purpose today is to share a list of resources.  The first two links are blog posts I've written. The rest of the links are from professionals and researchers who are a lot smarter than me. These are meant to be a springboard for you to do your own research.
  • The Birds and the Bees. Before you teach kids not to look at bad pictures, you need to start a series of conversations about healthy human intimacy when they are in elementary school.  This link includes suggestions about when and how to talk about human intimacy with your children.
  • Phone Safety is super important when talking about pornography and healthy cognitive development in teens, so Norm and I wrote about some of our strategies.
  • The Atlantic, "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?" A sobering article reporting real science behind the change in teen behaviors due to the rise of smartphones and social media.  A must-read for all parents of teens with phones.
  • Fight the new drug is an amazing nonprofit. My kids' school in Utah County did a weeklong prevention campaign using some of their material.
  • He Restoreth My Soul by Dr. Donald Hilton is informative and fascinating. He explains about the brain, how the brain works and how the brain is impacted by pornography.  I REALLY loved this book and the stories it told to put things in perspective.  And the focus on the hope available to all through the grace of Jesus Christ is also both wonderful and powerful.
  • Rethinking Sexuality  (God's Design and Why It Matters) by Dr Juli Slattery. Dr. Slattery proposes that pornography is a symptom of our broken cultural views on sex and intimacy.  "As you encounter the pain of sexual brokenness you'll ultimately collide with, and point others to, the love and grace of Jesus."  
  • "Arm your kids for the battle" from BYU magazine  This article has five proactive strategies for parents to prepare their kids for how to avoid and manage exposure to pornography.
So to recap, our teenager's brains are amazing things.  What our kids put into their brains is SO important!  I encourage you to give real thought to when to talk to your children about sex (it's likely earlier than you think, see The Birds and the Bees link above). Make it as normal as you can to talk about intimacy, and it needs to be more than one conversation where you have "The Talk."  It should be a series of safe, honest conversations about intimacy, sex, appropriate use of mobile devices, and reassuring your kids that when they see something they shouldn't, it's okay to tell Mom and Dad.

My parents were wise to warn me and my siblings about the garbage in the Las Vegas gutter all those years ago. Obviously in today's world, that same garbage is free and available in your own home on multiple devices.  My experience and education tells me that our job is to prepare our children and teach them properly about pornography that they will (it's not If but When) be exposed to digitally, and to teach them how to respond. And if you have someone you love (husband, ex-husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, teenage son or daughter) struggling with a pornography addiction like those boys I interned with all those years ago, the books I suggested are great resources, too.  

Just like a mirage is a counterfeit to a real water source, pornography is a counterfeit to real love. It doesn't satisfy thirst, and it leaves the viewer empty, or emptier even.  I don't think there's any real way to avoid pornography entirely in today's world (though it makes Norm's drive to live the simple life in the country a bit more appealing), so my goal is to share some real-world tools that can help.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

2021 Christmas Card

December 2021  Dear Friends and Family, We love you and and miss y'all that are far away in WA and UT and other places!! This year we skipped our tradition of sending a Thanksgiving card and opted for a virtual Christmas card instead. It saved a ton of stamps and envelopes, but I definitely miss the glitter and sparkle. We hope you can feel our love even through a simple email or blog post. One tradition we couldn't skip was our gratitude tree, where the little leaves are a list of blessings. We are so thankful for God's goodness and mercy every day. Here's the highlight reel:  Cade graduated, made lots of Domino's pizza, read probably a thousand books, and is currently living in Provo, UT as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's heading to Helsinki, Finland in January. We are so proud of him and his hard work, we miss him but are excited for his opportunity to learn and serve. Shad spent a zillion hours with Marcus Ban

Love

"How are you feeling about your son leaving soon?" has been my favorite question lately. My answer is kinda mixed. During July and August I was surprised and excited. Then on September 14 he flew to and from San Francisco by himself for a day. The purpose was a quick visit to the Finnish consulate for a visa. He had fantastic instructions to get from the airport to the BART to the consulate, but waiting for the interview took longer than planned. Leaving the consulate he had less than an hour until his flight was supposed to take off. That included a 32 minute tram ride, printing a boarding pass, airport security, etc. In all honesty, he should have missed that flight home. But he didn't. Call it a miracle or a test of faith, or whatever you want to call it. But for my boy who loves to be punctual, boarding a flight 7 minutes before take-off was pretty intense. Long story short, I think we all realized a few things that day. There are so.many.details I can't control,

Shoplifting: Tic Tacs at Target

 You know when you're at the store and one of your kids asks you to buy stuff? Then they ask again and again and again and again? My reply is usually something like, 'No, but thanks for asking.' And if they ask again then the reply goes something like, 'If you ask again, the answer will be no for like a week.' OR, "If you ask again, I'll take away your favorite toy," OR "If you ask me one more time, __________." Think of a punishment you will actually do! You can't make an empty threat here. If you don't have the energy to see it through, then just say yes. My older kids will often comment on how their younger sister gets a ton of stuff or privileges. If I'm tired and don't have the energy to win a battle, it's much better to JUST SAY YES the first time. That way, when I say NO on something, it carries more weight. So I explain to the older kids that they've already run me ragged and I no longer have the patience or st

Companions - Notes on Home MTC

November 18, 2021 Most people know that missionaries run around in pairs. Some of my neighbors have seen this version of a companionship lately. Let me explain. During Covid, the church did a pivot and changed the missionary training experience from in-person to virtual. During this process they realized there were a few cool benefits that were worth continuing even after the pandemic. So the new version of missionary training begins  at home  with an Elder or Sister doing full-time training with a companion online. Then they transition to  in person  after a few weeks.  My oldest son began on November 8 with training at home. When they are in class or working together, they are meeting and making friends with other missionaries in their district. My son's cohort has four young women and four other young men, for a total of nine kids all going to Finland in January. BUT when they're not actively working or studying together,  I'm his companion . All of the places I'd no

One More Syllable

It's been a year. One year ago we moved to Texas. One year ago I started asking people to call me Kristina instead of Kristy, thus adding one more syllable to my name. August is our anniversary. Last year we celebrated that anniversary by adding a cool new memory. That day we drove up to our house, found the keys and walked inside with the kids. We spent the night in our house without any stuff. Isn't it funny how places seem bigger when they're unfurnished? And that pool in the backyard? We knew nothing about pools and maintenance but just jumped in carefree. It was great. It was like being in a hotel but with room for everybody to spread out. Maybe it's time to explain the name change. For me, I had decided before moving to Texas that I wanted to quit using Kristy as my nickname. It served me well for many years and I still like it, but it's mainly for simplicity. When I'd first meet somebody, maybe I'd mumble or maybe I don't speak clearly enou

The Invisible Woman

Today I'm thinking about my mom. She spent a lot of years building and serving and lifting. She poured love and time and energy into her children, in a never-ending pattern. She did a hundred things that we still haven't noticed. I wonder if there's a coming of age that happens for a young mom, when she begins to realize how much work it is to BE a mom. Then maybe about two dozen years into this parenting thing, she begins to see  more stuff she missed. Then another realization comes when her oldest is almost grown. I'm still learning to see my mom and appreciate her as a person. But how can you see somebody who's been invisible? This morning I was talking with a good friend, another mom like me. She's younger and in a different season of mothering, yet we both can relate to sometimes feeling lonely. Sometimes we need evidence of progress, or at least a friendly word from a girlfriend. Maybe sometimes we just need somebody to notice and say thanks. Years ago I h

Skeletons

  My favorite quirk about my neighborhood is this: at Halloween all the skeletons come out of the closets. This one made me laugh out loud the other day. I was mad about something, it might have been the shenanigans going on around me or in my kids' schools or I might have been miffed about all the &*&%$ going on in the Middle East or South America or whatever. But when I drove past this skeleton, it just illustrated my current view of humanity. "Got my butt in a jam," with a skeleton literally stuck in a trashcan. I love my neighbors for their creativity, for loving the kids and for wanting to give them a fun Halloween season. I love the empty nesters for storing all this crap all year long, so that during October we can drive past and see something that makes us smile. Some of my favorites this year: I think that they're trying to illustrate that a good kegger might lead to trouble. ;) The skeleton wedding makes me smile almost as much as that gorgeous blue

Mercy

Let's start with a fun list of opposites, skipping the usual favorites like hot and cold, and day and night. Instead here's a handful of spectacular rivalries.  Adobe and Apple Young Living and DoTerra McDonald's and Burger King Pepsi and Coke BYU and Utah TX Longhorns and OU Mercy and Justice Today my thoughts are on justice. Recently I took my girls to the dentist. My youngest doesn't love to brush or floss her teeth, she loves sugar, and hadn't been to the dentist in almost two years. After hearing good news that went something like, "Yay, good job everything is looking good..." Five minutes later I learned that there's six cavities with two more teeth that need silver caps and it will cost over $800 to fix everything. I was so miffed! Why get my hopes up before looking at an x-ray, and send them crashing down to earth after seeing the details more clearly?  When I die and go to heaven, I hope justice is Nothing like what I just experienced: I thoug

A church hymn I hated for five years

Hymn #223 Have I Done Any Good? 1. Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. Has anyone's burden been lighter today Because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there? [Chorus] Then wake up and do something more Than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, A blessing of duty and love. 2. There are chances for work all around just now, Opportunities right in our way. Do not let them pass by, saying, "Sometime I'll try," But go and do something today. 'Tis noble of man to work and to give; Love's labor has merit alone. Only he who does something helps others to live. To God each good work will be known. Text and music:  Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909, alt. James 1:22, 27 Alma 9:28

Church music, my favorite song by Pink, and thoughts from a recovering perfectionist

A song I've loved for years is, "You are perfect," by Pink, because it rings true for me:  I've chased down all my demons.  Or at least most of them. I've played the organ in Sacrament meeting dozens of times.  Occasionally there's a distinguished visitor or an important somebody sitting on the stand (literally two feet from my organ bench).  Sometimes it makes me nervous, but usually not too bad.  The time that freaked me out the most was when there was music professor in the congregation.  I remember having a little meltdown before church that day.  I told the Bishop, "I got a D in organ when I was in school..." and in his good natured, humorous way, he said, "We won't tell him."  Still, my anxiety was real.  I was worried about the songs, I was worried about the singing, I was worried about a lot of stuff.  Mainly, I was worried that I wasn't good enough and that somehow that music professor would agree. If you