Pornography at BYU: A constant concern


    By David Randall

    The danger of pornography is no news to almost any student at BYU.

    From bishops, stake presidents and at almost every general conference, students hear that pornography is toxic- a substance they should avoid like the plague.

    BYU has a club, Student Team Opposing Pornography (STOP) that hands out ribbons and organizes lectures on the dangers of pornography, and in 2001, President Bateman spoke at a conference called “Cybersecrets,” where lecturers addressed the issue.

    Yet, it seems that pornography addiction is still a major problem for many students on campus.

    The Extent of the Problem

    It may be impossible to tell exactly how many students on campus are viewing pornography or consider themselves addicts, in part because of the secret nature of the habit, but reports from ecclesiastical leaders, counselors and the honor code office help confirm that it is a problem, and that it is not going away.

    In a 2001 NewsNet survey of 20 BYU campus bishops, at least half said they worked with new cases of pornography addiction at least two or three times a month.

    Counselors at the BYU Counseling and Career Center, who treat pornography addiction as part of their services, handle up to 4 or 5 new cases per every week, according to Rick Moody, BYU counselor.

    The honor code office, which gets involved in cases only when students are reported by third parties, cannot disclose the number of students it handles, but has a counselor who specializes in working with pornography cases, although it is not his only responsibility.

    The problem seems to cover all age groups.

    Of those treated by the counseling center, most are returned missionaries and 30 to 35 percent are married, Moody said.

    Randy Bott, associate religion professor and self described “Ann Landers of BYU,” answers 15 to 20 e-mails a day from students with various problems, who approach him, he said, because of his pragmatic way of handling things.

    He said he has seen pornography become an increasingly prevalent problem among students who come to him for help.

    “It”s one of those things that sort of sneaks up on you,” he said.

    Bott said he helps students from various age groups deal with pornography problems through e-mails several times a week.

    Deborah Blickfeldt, STOP club president, said many people don”t want to recognize the pornography problem at BYU, but denial, she said, will not help create a solution.

    “People want to see the Mormon culture in our Mormon communities as sin free, but this problem is there and we can”t just ignore it and it will go away,” she said.

    The Power of Addiction

    BYU got a taste of the power and danger of pornography in October, when Paul Turner, a married student, was arrested and charged with four first-degree felony counts of attempted criminal homicide-aggravated murder, for allegedly trying to poison his pregnant wife.

    As reported earlier in the Daily Universe, at a preliminary hearing, Provo Police Detective Aaron Mullins testified that he responded to a call from Turner to the Provo Police in which Turner revealed details of the alleged attempted poisonings.

    Turner also revealed a history of pornography problems dating back to when he was 13, and cited his addiction as motivation for his actions against his wife, Mullins said.

    While Turner may be an extreme case, (he is currently under examination in a state mental facility) experts say his actions are consistent with the way pornography affects people.

    “Turner is a classic example of what happens to a person that becomes addicted to pornography,” said John Harmer, an anti-pornography advocate and author of the book “The War We Must Win,” about a life-long battle for anti-pornography legislation. “It desensitizes them in a horrible way, such that they are willing to do things that they would never normally do.”

    Victor Cline, a renowned expert on pornography addiction and former University of Utah professor, said while he didn”t feel comfortable passing any strong clinical judgment on Turner, he has seen addicts reach similar culminations in the past.

    “I”ve seen many, many addictions come to the point that people will do things that are unhealthy, illegal or self-destruction,” he said.

    Part of the basic damage done by pornography is that it turns people into objects, experts say. People become tools for the pleasure of the pornography user, rather than human beings.

    “It”s very powerful. It can dominate every aspect of a person”s life,” said Timothy Adams, sex therapy specialist for The Gathering Place, a non-profit therapy organization in Orem. “(pornography addicts) develop a relationship with the pornography rather than connecting with other people.”

    Realizing this connection that pornography users have with pornography rather than people is perhaps the key to understanding cases such as Turner and serial killer Ted Bundy.

    Cline quotes Bundy in a publication he authored titled, “Pornography”s Effects on Adults and Children,” as saying, “you are going to kill me, and that will protect society from me. But out there are many, many more people who are addicted to pornography, and you are doing nothing about that.”

    And pornography addictions are not easily broken, because, as Adams points out, they are quite literally like a drug, and as addictive as cocaine or heroin.

    “The way the brain experiences it is just as a drug,” he said. “There”s a physiologically or biological dependence.”

    Even once addicts are married or attempt to develop a healthy sexual relationship, pornography habits are difficult to shake.

    While symptoms may subside for a time, they will come back if they are not handled, and can harm a couple”s sexual and personal relationship, Adams said.

    “A healthy sexual relationship is basically two people who are communicating with each other and sex is just one aspect of that unity,” he said. “To a person who is addicted to pornography and married, sex becomes a drug. It”s not a combining of two lives; it”s just a drug. It”s a lust driven thing, a selfish thing.”

    Brad Wilcox, an associate professor of teacher education and author of the tape, “Pornography: Satan”s Counterfeit,” agrees with Adams.

    He often instructs youth groups on the dangers of pornography, and warns them that pornography is “sex miseducation,” essentially preparing them for a less fulfilling relationship with their future spouse.

    “When you go into a marriage and your spouse has to compete with 30,000 images and expectations that you already have in your mind, then you are setting yourself up for failure,” Wilcox said.

    And the failure doesn”t stop in the bedroom, he said. The selfishness that pornography brings can affect all aspects of a relationship.

    Kimberly Gardner, a social worker for the Utah Division of Child and Family Services deals with struggling family relationships. She said that while it would be difficult to quantify the problem, she estimates that half of the cases she deals with involve pornography.

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