Chapter 19: Porn

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–The Sego Lily is the most delicate and elegant of chalices, a veritable grail.–

The state highway traverses the valley three-quarters of a mile away, perpendicular to Church Road as I approach Rabbit Lane.  In the dark morning, a long line of white headlights travels north toward the Great Salt Lake, becoming red taillights as I pan from south to north.

Where do they all go?  To work?  To the airport?  To breakfast at the all-you-can-eat truck stop buffet?  On vacation?  It occurred to me rather absurdly that if everyone that was going switched places with everyone that was coming, no one would have to go anywhere.  They could stay home, play with their children, make love to their partner, read a classic book, work in the garden—enjoy life.  Instead, they rush off in one direction only to rush back in the other, with little of substance, perhaps, filling the void.  I do the same.

Water moves slowly through the wider parts of the ditch, reflecting the bluing early morning sky in its glassy surface.  It trickles through the green Watercress to smooth again downstream.  As the sun prepares to crest the Oquirrh mountain peaks, the sky explodes with pink and orange hues, reflecting gloriously in the water’s calm.

Ron and Mary often heat their home and cook their meals with coal in the wood stove and wood in the cook stove.  The smoky smells of burning coal and wood, mixed with the sweet aromas of frying bacon and baking bread, together with the crisp morning air of Fall, transport me momentarily to a place of transcendent bliss, into the happy ending of my own fairy tale, where I wish I could stay.

Ron farms the 18 acres on the corner of Rabbit Lane and Church Road, with alfalfa hay or silage corn during the growing season, and grazing cattle in Winter.  The corn he cuts down, chops up, and dumps, stalk and all, into a ten-foot-deep silage pit, which he covers with tarps.  Beneath the tarps, the corn slowly ferments in the cool Fall temperatures.  During Winter, Ron pulls the tarps back several feet each week and scoops the silage out of the pit with his 1950s Case tractor bucket to feed to the hungry, black Angus heifers.

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Cheap newsprint pornography floats open on the water near Witch’s Tree.  I pause a moment, then turn away and move on past dozens of crushed beer cans thoughtlessly tossed.  Further along, I walk atop a low ridge of soft earth and gravel pushed up against the ditch bank by the county grader that had smoothed out the washboard ruts so annoying to strollers and cars.  From this short height I can see deeper into the ditch, and find hundreds upon hundreds of beer cans lining the banks and floating in the water.  Weeks later, the children and I brought rakes, bags, and a wheelbarrow, which filled up quickly.  The cleanest cans were recycled.  Cans full of mud went to the county landfill with the crayfish still inside.  I walked slightly ahead to keep an eye out for stray porn.

Another day, I invited my two older daughters Erin (15) and Laura (13) to join me for a walk on Rabbit Lane.  After a few minutes, the peacefulness of the summer afternoon settled in, and I pulled together the courage to broach with them the sensitive subject of sexuality.  I didn’t talk about anatomy; their mother had expressed to me her opinion that the topic of sexual anatomy should be discussed with daughters by their mother, not their father.  I did not object.

I began by explaining that a woman’s body has the power to excite certain sensations and emotions in a man.  This is why modest dress is so important for young women, not to restrict them from the popular styles of their peers, not to hide their natural beauty, but to help them both to avoid drawing unwanted sexual attention to themselves and to avoid creating sexual tensions within young men.  While feelings of sexual excitement are normal and healthy in young people, I expressed my conservative opinion that these feelings should not be intentionally magnified by the wearing of revealing clothing.  I do not apologize for this opinion.  I believe that modesty in attire and speech will allow a young person’s nascent sexuality to be kept in balance with his/her greater needs for real friendship, acceptance, understanding, and love, without premature sexual entanglement.

I moved from the topic of modesty to the subject of pornography.  I explained how the pornography industry makes billions of dollars annually by using women’s bodies to excite men’s fantasies.  While my opinion about modesty comes from sincerely held beliefs, my aversion to pornography comes less from a sense of traditionalism or conservatism than from a pragmatic understanding of the very real and very dangerous effects of pornography on the human mind.

From a place of reason and experience more than religion, I cautioned my daughters about marrying men that had spent any significant time with pornography.  For these men, pornography will have defined their sense of what a woman should look like, of what a woman should act like, of what a woman is for, of what intimacy and sexuality are all about, of what feminine beauty is, and of what marriage is.  I believe that a man trained by pornography will never be content with the woman he marries.  Her breasts or buttocks or thighs or waist or face or hair will never be right, and he will always be wishing and yearning for someone else.  As exciting as pornographic images may be in the moment, they will taint every true image that follows.  A woman married to a man filled with the propaganda of pornography will not be appreciated for who she is as a woman, but only for how she looks and how she performs sexually.  In his mind, she will never measure up to the idyllic woman sold by the clever and calculating pornographers.

Rabbit Lane wasn’t long enough for this discussion.  My beautiful daughters and I had turned the corner onto Bates Canyon Road, walked its length, and were now retracing our steps toward Rabbit Lane.  What I was telling them seemed to make sense to them.  It was rational and understandable.  Without their own experience, they nevertheless knew intuitively that what I was saying was true.  Still, I reinforced the message by pointing to the failed marriages of several beautiful women they know, and the behavior of the men in those marriages.

What I did not reveal to my daughters at that time is that my opinions about pornography derived in part from personal experience.  I did not tell them the story of when, as a 12-year-old boy riding my bicycle to church, I found a Playboy magazine in the parking lot.  I did not tell them of my unfortunate decision to pick up the magazine—to keep it, to take it in, to learn from it, to taste and feel the power and excitement of its images—instead of to ignore it or to reject it.  I was a young boy, barely into puberty, and, contrary to my indoctrination, had invited this magazine to shape my beliefs about womanhood, manhood, sexuality, pleasure, beauty, happiness, contentment, relationships, and marriage.  Since that first day, I have expended enormous energy and effort, not always successfully, to maintain internal integrity toward womanhood, manhood, and marriage.  I did not explain to my daughters the anguish that the lies of pornography will bring in the pursuit of real manhood, of a true relationship with real womanhood, and of real, lasting, and happy marriage.

Was I a coward not to confess to them the mistakes of my youth?  Was I afraid to show them their father’s imperfections?  Was I afraid to disappoint them, to have them feel ashamed of me, to relive my own shame?  I’m not sure.  I think I decided that it wasn’t necessary for them to know.  I love them and they trust me; that’s enough.  I do know that I feel keenly, to this day, a sense of my own shame for allowing myself to fall prey to pornography, for allowing the pornographers to teach me about womanhood and love.  But I have sought truer teachers since, and have worked to transform that shame into wisdom and truth.

My daughters were kind to me.  They did not reject or challenge or blush or avoid.  They simply took in what I had to say.  To my relief and joy, they began a conversation about what they hoped for in a husband.  They each hoped to marry a man that would be their friend, that would talk with them and listen to them, that would laugh with them and cry with them.  They each hoped to find a man that would love them.  It is really that simple: they want to be loved.  My prayer is that they will each find a man that will have eyes only for them, and not eyes that wander, yearning, to other women’s bodies, or to the pages of a magazine, or to a computer screen—that is when love leaves.

I have repeated iterations of this talk with my sons, sometimes on Rabbit Lane, sometimes on a drive to the movies, sometimes in the privacy of their rooms.

I hope for my daughters.  I fear for my daughters.  I hope and fear for my sons.  I see pornography as a great threat to the happiness and durability of any marriage, of any intimate adult relationship.  I pray to God that my daughters will find men worthy of them, men who will love them for who they are and not for what a magazine or website says they should be.  I pray that my sons will learn about womanhood not from a magazine or a website but from the wonderful women in their lives—their mother, their grandmothers, their aunts, their teachers, and their future wives.  This is my prayer for all daughters and sons.  As mothers and fathers, as aunts, uncles, and grandparents, we can help God answer this prayer.

*  *  *

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The road in front of Ron’s and Mary’s house is edged by a tall, tangled hedge of wild roses.  The bushes rise in long thorny tendrils that at about six feet long finally arc under their own weight and return to ground.  In mid-May, little green buds suddenly burst into hundreds of thousands of soft-yellow and scarlet-orange flowers.  They lay themselves open, more like daisies than commercial roses.  But the rich perfume is unmistakably rose, with a hint of citrus.  Wild rose bushes in bloom are like bursts of exotic orange and yellow fireworks frozen at the moment of explosion.  After one or two weeks, the dazzle fades and the bushes thicken into a deep green mass.  Like the once ubiquitous Hollyhock flower, these wild rose bushes are the vanishing vestiges of pioneer landscaping.  Few remain, like most things pioneer, being replaced by exotic hybreds possessing their own merits.

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11 thoughts on “Chapter 19: Porn

  1. Paul

    Taking a stand, and holding standards is what gives us strength, both individually and as a community. It is when we are timid or shy away from standards that we allow weakness to enter into our lives. In the real world, it is easy to understand why we have established building codes of such a caliber to ensure that our families will be safe from wind, rain, earthquake, fire, etc. It allows us to sleep at night. What parent would want to allow their family to sleep in a home that is filled wo structural or other dangers? However, I believe that standards in our moral lives are equally, if not more important because of their long term, even eternal consequences.

    Therefore, I commend you for taking the time and interest in your children’s behalf to warn them of the moral and other social dangers which exist in our world. Where pornography provides brief perceptions of “happiness”, strong standards which help define who we are and what we stand for, provides a basis for continuung bursts of beauty and adds blossoms to our lives.

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  2. bkolisha

    I am so encouraged as a spiritual daughter and woman to see that there are still men who are willing to be open, sincere and endeavoring to leave a heritage for all ‘our’ children that will not only stand the winds of change, the perversion of all that is good, but teaching others by example to rise up and take the time to ensure that there are some that will not bow the knee to the mores of the world.
    I did indulge in some of the same before I came to Christ; partially from the past of my father and marrying a man whose sexual appetites due to porn left me wondering if I was normal. My past in child sexual abuse became the weakness that would allow him to take what he wanted because I was his wife. Porn only served to strengthen his ungodly desires.
    I would survive a suicide attempt, starvation and financial poverty, but the Father found me and rose me from the ashes. I have 2 children that I raised in a godly path, but in the world my daughter would end up a victim of domestic violence, a single mom of 2 boys and trying to believe that love is still real and not the world some men create. She was naive, foolish and rising up. My son fell in love, married a girl we knew in ministry for 10 years and after graduating college, she left him for bisexuality and now atheism. He is still stumbling through the grief and brokenheartedness of how a person can live with you, marry you and not really love you. Her past in incest has left her craving things she does not understand as yet. He still loves her and hasn’t figured out how to let her go.
    So a long story to say thank you , thank you that there are men who are standing for better, more holy things and teaching their children to love righteously.

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    1. Roger Baker-Utah Post author

      Thank you for sharing so openly. I am so sorry for your heartache and trauma. This is a hard world, and it can be difficult to be hopeful. I hope that healing and learning can continue to bless you and your family.

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      1. bkolisha

        God is always working good and He has definitely done so in my life. Trials demonstrate both the character of the one going through them and the one causing them, but God’s character is never in question. He is always there and loves us through it all. He continues to give me strength for all of life. I really enjoy reading your blog and it gives me hope that some will hear what He has given me to speak.

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  3. Harv Russell

    In your second paragraph here is a thought that you brought to light that I have pondered over for quite sometime , and that is the comment you made about changing places with travelers.
    I have wondered just how long it would be before someone invented the miracle to do just what you have suggested, switching destinations so you wouldn’t have to travel…just trade places!
    Man has walked on the moon.
    You can fly all around the world in just hours!(or very close to it).
    You can cook a meal in just a few minutes!
    Drones can fly unmanned for many miles and find their target!
    Dozens of unbelievable inventions are arriving all the time.
    So how long will it be until we can be “beamed” ? In the flesh.

    And again I must applaud you for your wisdom and loving nature . I wish that I had had just a part of the expertise that you have used here in preparing your children in the way they should go. I have failed many ways with my children and am quite surprised that they still treat me so well. I love them and their spouses dearly and pray for them individually every day and I hope my Savior will take that into consideration.

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    1. Roger Baker-Utah Post author

      Thanks, Harv. I, too, feel that I have failed in many ways with my children. But they still love me. The truth is, while my mistakes might be bad or stupid, they don’t mean that I am bad or stupid. In fact, I’m good and smart, and doing the best that I can. So are you. We’ll keep at it together.

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  4. Jeanette

    People do no favors to their children by waiting to discuss the difficult issue of pornography. They need to know the world around them is being manipulated by the adversary, distorting godly truths and distributing lies about beauty, love, intimacy, and the value of a soul. I am glad your conversation included the idea of what to look for in a companion; it implies a hope that good relationships are possible and to be sought after. There are people who fall prey to temptation, but there are others who are clinging to virtue! I am trying to be a virtue seeker and raising my kids to be one of these as well.

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