SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—An article today in the The Salt Lake Tribune addresses a rather divergent point of view on pornography from that which is normally espoused publicly in conservative Utah, despite its citizen’s [not so secret] penchant for porn. Opening the article with a mention of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s oft-quoted comment about porn, "I know it when I see it,” writer Matthew Piper continues, “Two panelists at this week’s Sunstone Symposium worry that has also become the de facto standard for pornography — both in the LDS Church and across America — and it brings intense shame to those who wouldn’t otherwise have a serious problem.”
What follows is a refreshing take on the problems that can be encountered when non-professionals blithely embrace the controversial diagnosis of “porn addiction.”
“Kimberly McKay and Jeremy Irvin,” states Piper, “say that inadvertently viewing a Victoria’s Secret catalog does not trigger an automatic descent into unspeakable criminal activity.”
McKay, who is a Widener University doctoral candidate, adds, "What does it mean to have a pornography addiction? Does that mean that you looked at it one time and you felt aroused? Because there’s no clear conversation, people can start self-diagnosing themselves and having an addiction that doesn’t exist."
The “addiction” label, she adds, can become a self-fulfilling diagnosis, especially if it is encouraged by the Morman culture and the LDS church.
“Both McKay, from Salt Lake City, and Irvin, from Fruitland, Idaho, grew up Mormon but no longer practice,” reports Piper. McKay told the paper that she believes a 1997 quote from former LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley exemplifies the harm that such messages can convey.
"You live in a world of terrible temptations,” he said. “Pornography, with its sleazy filth, sweeps over the earth like a horrible, engulfing tide. It is poison. Do not watch it or read it. It will destroy you if you do."
Minus any context or boundaries, McKay told the Tribune, the all-too-common Hinckley message almost guarantees that people will “feel as ‘destroyed’ as their conscience is strong.”
“Instead of saying ‘You’re sexual beings. We all have natural desires, it’s part of how we are made, and let’s find a model for how to live a healthy life,” she said, the message just tells people, ‘This is wrong, you should avoid it.’”
Arguing that the Church fails its members by presenting them with no realistic options, McKay said she prefers the therapeutic philosophy of sexologist Marty Klein, who writes, "At the end of competent sex therapy or psychotherapy treatment, the patient is a grown-up, able to make conscious sexual choices. Sex addiction treatment offers a patient the chance to be a recovering sex addict. Which would you rather be?"
McKay and Irvin gave their 90-minute presentation at The Sunstone Symposium today at 2 pm. The symposium, whose theme this year is "Mormon bodies: literal, metaphorical,” runs through tomorrow at the University of Utah.