The LDS Perspective

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To fully understand the experiences of the LDS women in this phenomenological study, there are several aspects to consider that have an impact on these experiences. This chapter will explore the literature that may have an impact on the experiences of the research participants. I will first address pornography in general and the impact that it has on individuals and society in general. Second, I will identify the impact that pornography use has on significant others in the pornography user’s life, especially as it applies to committed relationships. Third, I will explore the effects of pornography use when combined with a religious culture. Fourth, I will address the LDS faith’s position on pornography use and a brief history of this stance. Lastly, I will define pornography for its use in this study and provide a rationale for my definition. As I weave my way through these various aspects of pornography use, I am hoping to highlight the scope of this issue and the importance of viewing this from the lens of LDS women who have been thrown into this world they thought to avoid.
I realize that individual participants in this study may identify more with one aspect than another. Many themes that are found in the literature may not be expressed or experienced by everyone in this study. In addition, this study may discover themes that have not yet been identified in the current literature. Pornography use can be identified on a continuum, ranging from casual use to problematic use to addictive use. The focus of this study is not to identify which order these aspects of pornography use should be placed in, but how each woman interviewed has experienced her aspects individually. The amount of use that is considered too much by the LDS Church is the standard by which I make many of my claims. My goal in conducting this study is to “allow the participants to define phenomena for themselves, and to describe the conditions, values, and attitudes they believe are relevant to that definition for their own lives.” (Dahl & Boss, 2005, p. 72)

Pornography:  General and Social Impacts

Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-TR) does not list sexual addiction as a diagnosable disorder (APA, 2000). Without the official standing of the DSM for a definition, the field has been debating the definition of sex addiction, whether it really is an addiction, and how much sexual activity is considered too excessive (Gold & Heffner, 1998). Does one need to engage in sexual activity multiple times each day to be considered excessive, or is masturbating one time considered too excessive? One meta-analysis of pornography’s effects on marriage had difficulty finding consensus in defining what is even considered pornographic (Manning, 2006). A growing body of research is looking at the effects that the use of Internet pornography and cybersex are having on the family and on relationships. This investigation is of growing concern, due to the accessibility of this form of sexual material (Daneback, Cooper, & Mansson, 2005; Delmonico, 2005). Estimates range as high as 17% of Americans having difficulties with online sexual problems (Cooper, McLoughlin, & Campbell, 2000). Cooper and Marcus (2003) report pornography to be an estimated $8 billion a year industry. They go on to report 61% of family-hour television programs containing at least some sexual content, averaging 8.5 sexual interactions per hour. The amount of sexual content that society is exposed to is increasing and influencing more and more people. It is not just adults that are exposed to the sexually explicit media, either.
In a qualitative study examining current research published addressing pornography consumption, Attwood (2005) identified three main categories of research into pornography consumption: studies focused on men, studies focused on women and studies that focused mainly on young people. She found that young people often rely on media to gain information on sexuality and that this differs based on gender. She states, “…where girls used dictionaries, books, magazines, and romance novels, boys used pornography…” (p. 79)
Much of the research exploring the use of pornography use, views it through the lens of sexual addiction. Seegers (2003) examined sexual addiction among 240 (69 male and 171 female) students of a private university in the southeast, using the Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST) and the Women’s Sexual Addiction Screening Test (W-SAST). Participants were divided into three categories: not at risk for sexual addiction, at risk, and in need of treatment. She found that 17.4% of male and 32.2% of female college students fell into a category of needing to seek further evaluation and treatment for their online sexual activity. In addition to this, 8.7% of the males and 13.5% of the females of this study fell into the category of being at risk of sexually addictive behaviors. This study highlights the continuum of sexual behaviors, ranging from non-problematic to behavior that would be considered needing to be evaluated for treatment.

Pornography: Effects on Significant Others

With the increased availability of sexual material, many spouses are discovering their partner’s secret usage of sexually explicit material, and feel betrayed when sexually addictive behavior is revealed, including pornography use. Some studies found that sometimes partners even feel that pornography use is equivalent to “cheating” (Alonzo, 2005; Bergner & Bridges, 2002; Bridges, Bergner, & Hesson-McInnis, 2003; Paul, 2005; J. P. Schneider, 2000). In Manning’s (2006) review of the current literature on pornography use and its impacts on marriage, she found that pornography use was a predictor of marital distress, separation and divorce. Although pornography use may contribute to distress, this study does not differentiate between heavy pornography use, or addiction, and casual pornography use.
Bergner and Bridges (2002) reviewed letters written by 100 women whose romantic partners were using pornography and explored the experiences of these women when they discovered their partner’s pornography use. They first discovered that for the majority of the women in the study, discovery of the pornography use was often traumatic in that it “confronts her with a new world view that she finds devastating, confusing, and incomprehensible….” (p. They report that the majority of the women in their study came to view their partner as betraying them, cheating on them and even viewed heavy pornography use as an affair. They viewed their partners differently following the discovery of the pornography use as well. Some views included “pervert,” “sex addict,” “a sexual degenerate,” and other sexually degrading terms (pp. 198-199). Other themes emerged from the letters of these women as well, including liar, unloving/selfish, and an inadequate father and husband. Schneider (2000) added to this list, including feelings of rejection, abandonment, shame, isolation and anger, to name a few (p. 31).
Not only did her view of her partner change, but her view of herself also was altered following the discovery. Feelings of sexual undesirability, worthlessness, weakness and stupidity were prevalent themes in the letters. Schneider (2000) also identified a decrease in self-esteem as a result of the partner’s pornography use. Women in this study stated that they compared themselves to the women in pornography and felt that they could not compete with these women or the fantasy of these women.
Bridges, Bergner and Hesson-McInnis (2003) developed the Pornography Distress Scale (PDS), consisting of 23 negative statements and 27 positive statements derived from some of the themes found in their previous research. Messages were posted on Internet websites advertising the study and asked for women to respond whose partners were using pornography. They compared the relationship status and the extent of a partner’s pornography use to distress associated with a romantic partner’s pornography use. They stopped advertising and collecting data once 100 women responded to their advertisements and completed the PDS. They found two significant contributors to the level of distress in the relationship. The first is that the level of relationship commitment contributed significantly to the level of distress in the partner. Married women reported more distress than partners that were simply dating. Second, the higher the level of pornography use, the more distress experienced by the partner. This included both frequency of pornography use, as well as, the quantity of use. Some partners reported worrying that they may lose their partner to the pornography use. One factor Bridges, et al found that was not a significant contributor to the distress caused by pornography use was the partner’s religious beliefs. Comparing religious involvement, however, was not a focus of this study and was compared only after testing the two main variables. Because religion was not a central focus to the study, no measure of religious involvement was used to determine the influence religion has on the participants of this study. The significance of the contribution of religious belief on marital distress when one partner uses pornography is called into question. The influence of religious beliefs within a marriage where one partner uses pornography will be the main focus of this thesis.

Pornography:  A Religious View

Literature that addresses religion and pornography use and/or sexual addiction is either focused on the individual or on religious leaders. Considering religion in the context of working with couples in a therapeutic setting has also been identified as being crucial to honoring both partners’ experience of the sex addiction (Laaser, 2006). However, few studies have addressed the influence religion has on relationships when pornography is being used. I found no literature directly connecting the religious beliefs of the couples and the experience that significant others have when their spouse uses pornography.
Abell, Steenbergh, & Boivin (2006) examined Internet-based pornography use among 125 undergraduate college males from four Midwest institutions, two of which were evangelical Christian universities. Each participant was given a packet, including the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS), Systems of Belief Inventory (SBI), Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST) and the Cyberporn Compulsivity Scale (CCS). They found that participants who reported greater levels of religiosity (based on the SWBS and the SBI) were less likely to be involved in behaviors associated with sexual addiction (based on the SAST). However, participants that scored higher on the SBI also scored higher on the CCS, suggesting that those that associate themselves more religiously may experience more difficulty with sexual material on the Internet.

Chapter One: Introduction 
The Problem and Its Setting
Effects of Religion
Theoretical Framework
Research Question
Chapter Two: Literature Review 
Pornography: General and Social Impacts
Pornography: Effects on Significant Others
Pornography: A Religious View
Pornography: The LDS Perspective
Pornography: Rationale for this Definition
Chapter Three: Methods 
Introduction and Study Design
Recruitment and Participants
Data Collection and Analysis
Chapter Four: Results 
Participant Background
Major Themes
Chapter Five: Discussion 
Summary of Findings
Study Limitations and Need to Further Research
Experiences of an LDS Spouse when her Partner used Pornography: a Phenomenological Study

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