Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Wounded on the Battlefield"

Last year BYU-Idaho released a short video (4 min) called "Wounded on the Battlefield".  The narration for the video is taken from an address given by Kim B. Clark to the student body of the University on January 15, 2008 in the weekly devotional. The video motivates and encourages students to help their roommates who struggle with pornography to get the help they need to overcome the problem.  Since being posted to Youtube, this video has received a lot of national attention, negative national attention. From newspapers, to online opinion articles, to Jay Leno; everyone seems to either disagree with the message of the video or be offended by the metaphor President Clark made between pornography addiction and being wounded in a war. Many are angry that he would draw that parallel because pornography is accepted by society as "normal" and is seemingly harmless, whereas war is a tragedy in which lives are lost and families and nations are torn apart.

I want to explain why comparing pornography addiction to war is a perfect metaphor.

First off, it needs to be understood that while pornography might be considered "normal" because so many people are involved, it is not harmless. I'm going to say that again: Pornography is NOT HARMLESS.

In an article published in 2011 by the US National Library of Medicine, the neurological effects of pornography were discussed as it relates to the chemical, pathological, and anatomical changes it creates in the brain. Through several studies they have concluded that pornography overloads the brain with dopamine and oxytocin (chemicals), to the point that it reduces the amount of certain cells your brain produces. The cells it tells your brain to stop producing? They are the ones that allow you to make strategic/planned/thought out decisions, leaving you only with the cells that produce impulsive decisions. These studies show that the exact same thing happens in the brains of people with addictions to cocaine, methamphetamine, and even eating disorders.

Why is this a problem?

It literally destroys your brain's ability to make rational choices. It takes away your freedom to decide what to do, because it takes away your brain's ability to even produce rational thoughts, let alone act on them. Most people have read the book 1984 for some kind of class in school. I'm pretty sure that if our government was run in the same manner the government in 1984 was run that it would cause a furious revolution. People in general don't like to be controlled. The reason I bring up 1984 is because in this story the government has a department that edits the dictionary to remove words that provoke certain thoughts. The reason? To keep people from even thinking about something that the government doesn't like. They are stopping the ability to produce certain thoughts. If the idea of a government regulating what people as a group are allowed to think is disgusting to us, why is it that allowing pornography to do the same thing on an individual basis is considered "normal" and/or "harmless"?

The same article from the US National Library of Medicine provides a possible answer:

"The sex industry has successfully characterized any objection to pornography as being from the religious/moral perspective; they then dismiss these objections as First Amendment infringements. If pornography addiction is viewed objectively, evidence indicates that it does indeed cause harm in humans"

So why do we accept what the sex industry suggests is legal under the First Amendment so readily, if it is so harmful? It is because the chemicals that pornography produces in the brain (the same ones that overload it to the point of not being able to produce rational thoughts) effect the pleasure/reward center; it makes you feel good immediately - at least, the first few times. Your brain recognizes that this chemical overload is bad for you, and actually fights the ability to be affected by those chemicals.

Did you catch that? Your brain naturally fights/rejects what pornography does to it.

It fights it by limiting the censors that react to pleasure/reward, so that you don't feel as aroused the next time you view pornography. Because the person viewing pornography realizes that they aren't getting as much of a "buzz" with subsequent views, this disappoints them, and they look for harder, more intense porn, thus creating an addiction. The person needs more extreme and even dangerous forms of pornography (most hard porn involves images/video of women being physically harmed) in order to feel aroused by it, and they are now combining and associating arousal with aggression. Sometimes this leads to the person viewing child pornography, or even trying to recreate images/scenes of pornography with real people by forcing them into unwanted sexual acts. This is horrible and illegal.

Obviously not all porn addicts go as far as committing crimes, however, several studies show that pornography addiction can have the following effects (depending on how deeply a person is addicted):
  • Interferes with the ability to "pair bond" (have a functional, healthy relationship with a significant other) 
  • Changes their idea of what a healthy sexual relationship looks like
  • Decreases interest in goal directed activities that are central to survival
  • Those who view child pornography have an 85% correlation to those who participate in/force sexual acts on children
  • Causes the person to consider acts such as sex with animals or violent sex as "common", and are more likely to participate in those acts
  • Induces violent attitudes against women
  • Increases harassing behavior toward women
  • Causes the user to feel less sympathetic towards rape victims
  • Increases the odds that the user itself will commit violent sex crimes, such as rape
All of these studies can be found at the following website, which is a fantastic source for getting the word out about how harmful pornography is:

So, getting back to BYU-Idaho's video which compares pornography to war, there are many reasons why I feel that comparing any addiction to fighting a war is not only an accurate description, but the best way of illustrating the problem.

Addictions (especially pornography) take away the freedom to choose, by literally making it incapable for your brain to think certain thoughts. If you can't think about something, you can't act on it.

War is usually a struggle for power - one country (or group of countries, or group within a country) feels that the other country (or group of countries, or government/other group within that country) is taking away their freedom to choose. This might be through imposing rules/taxes/regulations that keep them in subjection. This renders the people incapable of doing what they choose.

The only difference between war and addiction is that war is fought between two different and separate subjects, and addiction is fought within oneself.  It makes it especially hard to fight the addiction when people tell us that it's "normal", "harmless", "part of growing up", and/or "fun". 

The fight against pornography (or any addiction) = the fight to keep our freedom to choose, to make rational decisions, to think things over before deciding.  That is why I say that the metaphor between war and pornography is perfect. It is a struggle to ensure our freedom to choose.

I also want to address what some people have criticized in the "Wounded on the Battlefield" video as being equal to "Big Brother" from 1984. A lot of people dislike the fact that Kim B. Clark encouraged students to help their roommates/friends by talking to their bishop about the problem. Many have viewed this as "ratting out" or "snitching", and say that it is part of the Mormon effort to control everything it's members do.

Let me ask you something: If you were to find out that your roommate/friend/family member/any person you care about was addicted to cutting themselves, or to cocaine, or to binge drinking, or to purging themselves after eating, or to any kind of action that is physically harmful, would you hesitate to try to help them to get in to see a doctor or counselor? Would you consider yourself a snitch or a tattletale for going with them to the doctors appointment and helping them talk to someone qualified to help them? Would you look down on anyone else for doing the same thing for someone they care about?  I doubt it. If someone encouraged you to help your friend by taking them to a doctor, would you think that the doctor wants to control everything his patients do? Of course not.

Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) bishops, as well as I'm sure many clergy of other faiths, have extensive resources to help people who come to them with problems. They have access to programs, counselors, doctors, and professionals who are specialized in helping people with problems. Problems like addictions, relationship problems, mental health issues, abuse recovery issues, and any other problem you might come up with that you need help with. Bishops can provide financial assistance in case you can't afford to pay these professionals for the help you need on your own. In addition to having access to all of these useful resources, the local bishop knows you personally, and cares about you personally. LDS bishops aren't paid for what they do, their job is completely volunteer. The help they offer is out of love and understanding.

Most importantly, they provide spiritual guidance, which is so important to someone who deals with addictions, mental health issues, relationship problems, etc...because normally these circumstances leave them feeling worthless, inadequate, and like they are a failure to themselves and those they love.  Bishops help them understand that God still loves them, that He understands them, and that He can help them overcome their problems. They encourage finding strength through prayer, reading the scriptures and other spiritual books, attending church, and serving others. They never disclose anything you tell them with anyone else, unless it is to the person they refer you to for help.

I have also heard criticism from those who aren't members of our faith, because they want to know exactly what the bishop is going to do with the person who has the pornography addiction. There is a strong misconception that the bishop is going to give them disciplinary action, or put a bad mark on their membership record because of their addiction, or shun them from the congregation. Let me clear things up for you.

When I talk to the bishop, it isn't because he is going to reprimand me - I have had personal interviews with every bishop I have ever had since I was 8 years old, and I have never been reprimanded.  It isn't because he's going to tell me that I'm a sinner, or that I'm going to hell, or that I'm "unworthy" or that I need to "pay for my sins".  I have never been told any of those things. I go to the bishop because I know that my misbehavior has distanced me from God, and I want to come closer to Him again. I go to the bishop because I know that he will know what scripture story of someone in my same situation might help me, or what hymn from church might give me strength and help me feel God's love for me during that time. I go to the bishop because I understand that he can help me see the right path back to God better than I can see it by myself. He offers advice, and I am free to follow it or reject it. I have never felt anything but love and genuine concern from a bishop in my church.

I know that addictions can be difficult to overcome, especially when the world tells you that there is nothing wrong with it.  I would hope that if you are close to someone who has an addiction problem, any addiction problem, but especially pornography, that you will help them take back control of their life. Help them to get the help that they need. It is possible that God has placed you in that person's life because you are the only one that can get through to them, or help them see how harmful their addiction really is.

I want to add my personal testimony that our loving Creator does not want His children to be slaves to addiction. He wants us to be free to choose for ourselves, which is why He asks us not to participate in behavior or substances that can cause addictions. He knows what is harmful to us and has warned us well in advance what we need to avoid. Please fight for your own freedom to choose by getting to know Him and following His counsels.

If anyone wants to read further about the harmful effects of pornography addiction, or how to overcome it, I have added several links that you might find useful. I also encourage any comments that you have to share, but I ask you to be respectful, and to keep your language clean.

These are religious addresses/talks that speak about how to overcome pornography:


  1. I just wanted to thank you so much for writing this article. You being a voice of reason among all of the hate spewing has been very refreshing and encouraging! Please don't stop being a voice for good!