The following writing comes from a friend of mine, Sister Secret. She'd like to remain anonymous yet would like to open up dialogue about the subject of internet porn and how we react to it as Mormons. Any thoughts are appreciated and she will be reading and responding as she sees fit.
computers, sex, and denial in the living room
One Christmas season, we were visiting my in-laws. Newly married, I was enjoying getting to know my husband's family. One night, we were gathered in the living room playing a game. I got up to get a snack, passing by the computer in the family room on the way to the kitchen. My father-in-law was at the computer. I glanced at the computer screen--okay, I'm nosy--and saw that he was at a website that contained several links to calendar girls. You know, naked ones.
I kept walking by, and thought that I must have been mistaken. I only caught a quick glance and wasn't sure what I saw. There's no way my devout Mormon father-in-law would be checking out...No.
I grabbed my snack and went back into the living room. A little while later, I walked by again to get a drink. My father-in-law was still at the same website. And I could tell now that it was definitely what I thought it was. Yep. Porn. Back in the living room with the rest of the family, my brain started working hard on denial. Surely he was only on that site by mistake. He's not of a computer savvy generation and just followed a link he shouldn't have and accidentally found himself here. Right?
Out of morbid desire to know for sure--or perhaps, a certain lack of boundaries about other people's business that Mormonism bred in me--I walked by the computer again. This time, I saw he was printing something out. A picture. I only saw a couple inches worth as I quickly walked behind him, but I could tell it was a whole lot of flesh color. I was shocked and appalled. Curiosity just got the best of him, and, I mean, he's only human, right? This is exactly what the Brethren warned against, isn't it? You get one glimpse, and suddenly you're sucked in and your marriage and life are ruined. How could he be so stupid? I walked back through on the way back from the kitchen, almost as a "I know what you're doing" statement and saw he had folded up the picture and tucked it into his shirt pocket.
I returned to the living room, angry and confused. I tried to play the game with everyone, but I was distracted. My father-in-law disappeared into his bedroom, and came out a while later, hair disheveled and a goofy grin on his face. No way. He did not just--oh, my gosh--how could he? What do I do? Granted, he probably hasn't done it with his wife in years, but, jeez. This in pornography, the bane of modern existence. I sneaked away to the computer and checked the history. His sins were confirmed: there were several jpgs, all of them named female names. I didn't click on any of them myself. Too dangerous. Besides, I didn't want to see any naked women. Gross.
It all made sense now. The computer viruses, the raunchy pop-ups on the screen when you least suspect it. He's been downloading things, all sorts of cookies and junk infecting the computer. Everyone had been wondering what the heck was wrong with the computer, why there were so many porn ads popping up. I had been too innocent to suspect any of the teenage boys, or even that someone in the house was viewing porn sites. I just figured those evil-doers who make the sites are also good at finding ways to infect random computers. You know, like the Brethren said, it catches you unawares.
I was angry. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been that angry. I had to do something. Something. But what? Confront him? Ugh, too embarrassing. I hardly know him. Tell my husband? What good would that do? Make him mad, too? That would just be gossip, and the fewer people who know about his sin, the better. Tell my mother-in-law? Yeah, that's probably good. She should know. She should know that their marriage is about to be ruined by some insidious pictures from the internet. But how do I tell her? That's just so awkward.
I seethed and thought the rest of the evening, but didn't say anything. Then it hit me. Whose business was this, more than anyone else's? The bishop! Yes, I could tell the bishop. But how? I'd heard of people slipping notes to bishops to let them know about other's sins. I could do that, write a note that my father-in-law has something to confess. Yeah, that'll work.
The next day was Sunday, and we all packed in the car to head to church, like always. I was so mad at my father-in-law I couldn't stand to be near him, or even look at him. He happened to sit next to me in the pew. I tensed up and scooted further away from him, trying not to make it obvious. I sat there thinking about my plan to tell the bishop, wondering how to word it. But I wasn't sure, still, if that's what I should do. I thought and thought, just as angry and confused as ever. Finally, I prayed, "What should I do?"
And then it hit me. I should do nothing. At the time, this came to me as, "That's between my father-in-law and the Lord." I felt the Spirit was telling me Heavenly Father would take care of it. I felt relieved, a burden gone from my shoulders. The Lord knew, and would deal with it in His own way.
I never told. I kept my little secret, and smugly noticed that next time there was a temple wedding, he didn't attend. His wife gave some excuse about forgetting to get his temple recommend renewed. I figured that his bishop had found out somehow.
Since then, I've changed my mind about the church, and have reinterpreted the Spirit's little message to be my then-devout way of realizing a simple truth: It was none of my business.
Now, the Brethren's fearful advice seems overblown. There are plenty of far more important things the supposed leaders of the True Church of God on Earth could be preaching about than men's solo sex lives.