“We used to teach our families to avoid pornography. That is no longer possible,” said Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and president of Latter-day Saint Charities during her opening keynote address at the Utah Coalition Against Pornography annual conference on Saturday, April 24.
Pornography is increasingly prevalent in society. In 2020, websites hosting pornography received more website traffic than Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Zoom, Pinterest and LinkedIn combined.
Because pornography “comes at us in a constant barrage in the most innocent of places … we must learn to talk about it,” explained Sister Eubank at what is one of the largest anti-pornography conferences in the world.
Two common responses to pornography exposure are acceptance and shame — both are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and both are harmful.
The danger of accepting pornography exposure and use is the resulting damage to the brain, she said.
When viewing pornography, fantasy, check-out and speed pleasure centers in the brain are hit, and the brain become attached to the images and less attached to real-life people since they are less stimulating.
“This feedback loop drastically alters the way the brain processes stimulation, and it is not in any way normal or natural,” Sister Eubank said. “Acceptance of pornography retards the very human qualities that make our lives rich and fulfilling: connection, empathy, generosity, discipline, joy in the moment.”
The shame that comes from pornography is “a paralyzing self-loathing that stops all forward motion with its insistent repetition that we are unworthy failures at the very core.”
Shame hinders progress and healing and needs to be reduced as much as possible when having conversations about pornography.
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Sister Eubank presented a framework to neutralize shame and “guide the conversations about pornography in a way that is productive and effective.”
The communication framework is centered on the principles of faith, hope and charity.
Faith in God’s good character is incredibly reassuring, Sister Eubank said. “If you ask Him for help in the smallest, most unsteady way, He will not upbraid you but will give you liberally.”
Faith in God is “good medicine” for the healing necessitated by pornography.
Faith in one another is another important facet in overcoming shame, since pornography use has the tendency to divide and distance individuals from each other.
“The best way to fight the silence and the secrecy is by linking arms and turning the lights back on — together rather than alone,” Sister Eubank taught.
She suggested five ways to hold productive conversations around pornography:
- Ask what a person needs
- Listen without judgment
- Be with each other
- Don’t compare
- Validate the pain and suffering.
Hope is also essential for the healing journey of anyone who has been affected by pornography.
Sister Eubank shared the words of Melanie Holt, a leader of a Utah pornography addiction group, and emphasized that those whose loved ones struggle with pornography should “support them emotionally and let the Savior do His job. … So often we don’t want people to have to do the hard things, but they have to do it to progress. Otherwise rescuing people cripples them.”
The final principle in Sister Eubank’s framework is charity, “the pure love of Christ.”
She called charity the “ultimate antidote to the effects of pornography” because “while pornography is inherently and fundamentally selfish in nature, charity ‘is kind…and is not puffed, seeketh not her own, … believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things’” (Moroni 7:45).
Sister Eubank extended specific invitations for communicating about pornography to children, spouses, fiancés, schools and policymakers, and concluded by echoing the words of Paul to the Romans:
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).