Of ProgMos and Pornography, and Latter-day Saints on Only Fans

In progressive discourse, the person (generally either gay or female) who challenges conservative religious sexual strictures is seen as a courageous trailblazer. However, as liberal Mormonism generally tracks the norms and values of progressivism generally, it too inherits the ambivalence of mainstream progressivism towards pornography.

This is all anecdotal on my end, but it does seem that many progressive Latter-day Saints (hereafter “ProgMos” for easier reference), particularly the female ones, who bristle at a single woman being told by the Church to keep a lid on their sexual desires, or the gay returned missionary being told to be celibate, are simultaneously okay with the Church enforcing its lines when it comes to male gaze-y pornography among men. There is still a certain charm to the stalwart priest who’s never looked at pornography among the feminist left, as if they want to eat the cake of the sexual revolution and have it too. 

The point of this post is not to defend pornography (or the Church’s position for that matter, I’ve done plenty of that elsewhere). Rather I’m questioning the ability to pick and choose the aspects of the sexual revolution that conflict with Church teachings in any overarching, systematic, and non-contradictory way that doesn’t come off as an ad hoc attempt to justify one’s visceral “ick” reaction to somebody else’s sexual preferences or choices, because the fact of the matter is that for some people who score high on sociosexuality, the Latter-day Saint expectations of not lusting after others (and acting on it) can be extremely uncomfortable and, dare I say, unnatural. 

I am fine saying this, since the natural man is the enemy to God, but for people who speak in the language of living one’s truth or embracing their authentic sexual identity, then logically it needs to extend to the 19 year old who wants to watch male gaze-y porn, and to do otherwise smacks of special pleading. Of course, there are the Dan Savages of this world who, to their credit, are completely consistent in their sexual liberationism, but in my admittedly anecdotal experience most ProgMos don’t fit into that camp; instead they try to synthesize the conservative and liberal, with all the trappings of orthodox, mainstream Latter-day Saint life that resolve around sexual exclusivity, but with exceptions.

Once again this is a Latter-day Saint specific refraction of the progressive narrative in the US as a whole. If you relied on media depictions, all gay males want to live in a suburban, white-picket fence setting with 2.1 children in some kind of gay leave-it-to-beaver existence. (While many conservatives roll their eyes at microaggression trainings, one I received while working for the government made the insightful point that we generally don’t ask our heterosexual coworkers about their marital plans, so we shouldn’t do the same for our gay colleagues). 

The confirmed gay male bachelor isn’t really a thing in our media or public consciousness; the gay 20-year old who plays video games, follows their favorite sport teams, and is not interested in dating, is probably not coming soon to a sitcom near you, but to consistently affirm people’s sexuality includes validating his decisions as well as the stereotypical sitcom gay couple as well as the 35 year old heterosexual who is not interested in getting married in part because he gets most of what he wants sexually out of PornHub. 

On a similar note, recently I saw a post about a Latter-day Saint mother, active in her ward, who “came out” as an OnlyFans adult content producer. For the sake of this argument, we’re taking her at her word that she’s doing what she does out of her own free will, and would prefer that work over lawyer work or whatever other corporate alternative is. (Yes, many if not most sex workers are most certainly pressured into that line of business, but not all of them, and for the purposes of this post we’re assuming the latter is the situation under discussion.)

The existence of Only Fans performers (and I’m sure their clients, but we all knew that was always a thing) worshiping among us interrogates certain progressive Latter-day Saint narratives surrounding sexual iconoclasts. Yes, that’s great that you share your hymnal with her in a sacrament meeting, involve her in your ward book clubs, and help her organize the Relief Society meals for new mothers, but I’m not going to make it that easy. Does God view paired, relational sexuality as “higher” than hers or her single clients’? I do as an orthodox Latter-day Saint, but I challenge the ability of people who have adopted the live-your-sexual-truth narrative to do so without being inconsistent, because sexual preference is so much more than the gender that we’re attracted to, but also includes facets such as the extent to which we connect the sexual to the romantic and the desire for sexual variety. People who would not dare to tell somebody who’s “born this way” in terms of a gender preference to work against their proclivities often have no problem doing so when the in-born proclivity in question is, say, against a lifelong paired sexual commitment or, for example, a stronger preference for a streamed 20-year old over a live 50-year old. In terms of raw numbers, I suspect the wages of sincerely embracing the “born this way” ethos is not so much long-term gay marriages in the suburbs as much as it is a not-insignificant portion of men opting out of marriage altogether, embracing the uncomplicated route of digital sexuality over the messiness of long-term commitment. Releasing sexuality from the strictures of religious mores opens up a bigger can of worms than many people realize.


37 comments for “Of ProgMos and Pornography, and Latter-day Saints on Only Fans

  1. Great post and insightful in its calling out of moral inconsistencies by those who seek to subvert sexual moral code.

    My added concern is to be clear that one can espouse progressive ideas and attitudes in some areas (such as a rejection of racism and attitudes of prejudice against any particular group of people) without advocating for immoral causes. Such faithful “ProgMos”, in my mind, have a great opportunity to pull the rest of us out of our tribal judgmentalism. I’m not a fan of labels in general, but let’s not cast aspersions on what it means to be progressive. To progress faithfully is the actual goal.

  2. Great point, I have a nasty tendency to do that in my posts: refer to group X, qualify what I mean by X even though the label is used in different ways, then keep using the X label. So yes, to be clear, if you’re a ProgMo because you go to Black Lives Matter rallies but don’t fit the description in the post, you’re not the ProgMo I’m referring to and I should be clearer.

  3. “The confirmed gay male bachelor isn’t really a thing in our media or public consciousness; the gay 20-year old who plays video games, follows their favorite sport teams, and is not interested in dating, is probably not coming soon to a sitcom near you,”

    You obviously missed Happy Endings. Somewhat understandable but nonetheless unforgiveable. Get thee to Hulu.

  4. ProgMo here. I bristle at LGBTQ+s being told to be celibate. But I’m against porn consumption. That said, however, the dangers that the church has said will come as a result of porn are greatly exaggerated. Still it is a bad habit that should be avoided.

  5. I think the OP would do well to remember Elder Uchtdorf’s words to “not judge me because I sin differently than you do.”

    I suppose one could label me progressive, Mormon, and ProgMo. But so what? That doesn’t define me. You cannot box what my progressive Mormonism looks like anymore than you can put baby in a corner.

    As for OnlyFans, I have no personal experience with the site, but what I do appreciate is it seems that there is consent (which can be hard to determine with porn consumption). And if there are members of my ward with OnlyFans accounts, I do not care. I’m happy to break bread with them, notwithstanding.

  6. This seems like another straw person “progmo” being described TBH. If you have examples go ahead and share.

    By contrast, I hear a lot of “progmo’s” take a MUCH more nuanced approach to pornography than the Church does.

    For example, progmo sex therapists are generally with the consensus that pornography isn’t an “addiction” like a heroine addiction but is rather potentially a “compulsive behavior” that can be destructive to relationships depending on the nature of the behavior.

    Progmo’s would also focus on things like consent and violence as being the problematic aspects of pornography, rather than just plain “sex is sacred so showing it is bad and looking at porn makes you impure” (or whatever).

    If anything, I think the Church is adapting more to what progmo’s have been saying about porn because it’s realizing that shame fuels addiction (or compulsive behaviors) and shaming pornography use or acting like a spouse looking at porn once is the end of a marriage is not helpful.

    So no, I don’t think this is progmo’s having no moral boundaries. I think it’s about them having a different moral calculus focused on choice and consent and non-violence and anti-sexism vs traditional appeals to authority and purity.

  7. @ Brett: Speaking of Hulu, I also give Brooklyn-99 some credit for having the no-nonsense Black police captain–who also happens to be gay.

    @Chadwick: We don’t judge people, but we are supposed to draw distinctions about righteous and unrighteous behavior, and that’s the point of the OP. Yes, it’s entirely possible that when we get to the other side the harlots will get into the kingdom of heaven before me, but that doesn’t mean that doing consensual sex work is divinely approved.

    @ Elisa: Maybe my anecdotal sampling frame (including Steve Yallerson up-thread) is off, and most feminist Latter-day Saints are actually fine with their husbands watching naked 20-year olds on a webcam after they get the kids down, but like some non-Latter-day Saint feminists I still get the sense there’s some discomfort on pure objectification grounds even if it’s completely consensual, non-violent, non-racist, etc.

  8. @stephen c, if the partner doesn’t want the spouse to watch porn then it’s not consensual as between them even if there is consent on the part of the performer. If there is discomfort, they should talk about the guy’s interest in porn and the woman’s objection to it and reach an understanding. That’s what a mature, sexually-intimate relationship looks like. It looks like talking about hard stuff and mutual respect in a relationship and shared decision-making, not just automatically shaming and blaming and purity culture.

    So yeah, I still think so-called progmos have morals in their relationships and sexual ethics. In fact, to the extent progmos would try to actually define sexual ethics as something other than “sex before marriage = bad, sex after marriage = good, porn and erotica = bad, same sex attraction = bad” and actually dive into topics like consent inside and outside of marriage, healthy sexual and emotional intimacy, etc, they’re doing better than the Church currently does at it. They are just more complex than For the Strength of Youth.

    I’m not saying that every progmo is morally superior when it comes to sexual ethics or that every TBM is infantile on the topic. I’m saying that your claim that progmo’s are hypocrites or amoral whatever it is you’re saying is painting with way too broad a brush. I don’t know why you keep doing that honestly. What’s your beef with progmos???

  9. @Eliza: That’s sort of begging the question as to who gets to define healthy sexual and emotional intimacy. What if somebody enjoys sex without any emotional intimacy? Is that “unhealthy”? As noted in the OP, is the non-intimate sexuality of, let’s say, one’s single son masturbating to porn on the same spiritual level as that son having an intimate, emotional sexual relationship with somebody? If you say no, then you are being consistent with the sexual liberation ethos that doesn’t impose value judgments on other people’s proclivities. If you say yes, then you’re still imposing your values on somebody for whom your framework might not be the natural or even comfortable option.

  10. Nuance be damned. The American family has been shredded and fatherlessness is an epidemic. And anything that would reinforce that trend should be roundly condemned–even if it comes across a bit ham-fisted.

  11. The beauty of leaving the church is you totally can pick and choose what you believe is right and wrong.

    I don’t see what you are trying to prove here. That liberals can’t have opinions about what is right or wrong about sexual morality? Or that if we disagree with your sexual ethos that we can’t have our own?

  12. I am with Eliza. First, you have consistently created straw-men arguments in regards to members who you consider to not be orthodox enough. It makes it hard to take your arguments seriously. Second, who’s to say that a single person (male or female) masturbating to porn or not is having a less meaningful moment than a couple engaged in consensual sexual activity? It’s not for us to judge.

  13. @Jack
    I wholeheartedly agree that anything that shreds the family should be condemned like the refusal to mandate maternal and paternal leave so parents can take care of their babies, or refusing to pay adequate wages so parents can support their family, or providing access to universal health without bankrupting a family for even routine procedures, or denying women bodily autonomy, or preventing schools from teaching comprehensive sex education so young people can make informed decisions about their sexual practices.

  14. @ Brian G. Not at all. You can certainly choose your own sexual rights and wrongs, you just can’t apply your own judgmental standard to others and then claim that others are the ones being judgmental without a good explanation for why your judgment is somehow fundamentally different, and from a Latter-day Saint perspective it’s really hard to make the case for one and not the other.

  15. @ Jason:

    “Second, who’s to say that a single person (male or female) masturbating to porn or not is having a less meaningful moment than a couple engaged in consensual sexual activity?”

    Again, we don’t judge people, but it is appropriate to differentiate between righteous and unrighteous behaviors. If you don’t see one as more spiritually meaningful than the other than you fit in the consistent “Dan Savage” category, and the OP isn’t aimed at your perspective, but it’s tall order to argue that many on the Latter-day Saint left don’t see one as higher than the other.

  16. Jason, of course the world has changed over the last couple of generations–and so some of the concerns you raise are legitimate, IMO. But even so, families were doing much better–back in the day–without the government amenities we moderns believe should be extended to them.

  17. I agree, Stephen C. While we should steer away from criticizing individuals it can rather irresponsible *not* to criticize a culture for its destructive tendencies–especially where the maintenance of families are concerned.

  18. @Elisa, May 3, 2022, 5:57 p.m.

    “… progmo sex therapists are generally with the consensus that pornography isn’t an ‘addiction’ like a heroine addiction …”

    I confess, I have a heroine addiction, and I’m not ashamed to admit it: Wonder Woman, Katniss Everdeen, Charlie’s Angels, and on and on, ad infinitum. I can’t get enough of ’em! ;-D

  19. Trying to parse your logic. Conservative Mormons are judgmental about what is righteous behavior but that is OK because they are right. Progressives can’t do the same with their different standards without “significant” justification to prove they are right, which you won’t accept because you don’t agree with their standards of morality when they differ from yours?

    This is a lot of words to say you get to be judgmental but don’t like it when someone else is judgmental of you.

  20. @ken hah! Wish I could blame autocorrect but that one is probably on me. Is it an addiction or just a compulsion though :-).

    @stephen c, I just think it’s not that complicated. Are you hurting someone else or yourself? Then it’s not ok. It’s about not doing harm to others or yourself (an ethics of compassion) not about sexual purity for purity’s sake (an ethics of purity). There are probably a lot some things sex therapists and other professionals might say that would help us define healthy sexuality and there are probably some overall guidelines and then some of it depends on our own values which may differ (and so what? Again as long as we aren’t hurting anyone).

    As for someone who wants non-emotional sex, as long as it is fully consensual and transparent and safe, I don’t really see who that hurts. I don’t know what professionals say about that kind of thing tho. It is not what I teach my kids but that’s because of the things our family values. I should probably do more research on that one tbh.

    As for a boy masturbating alone, if this is periodic not-compulsive behavior that doesn’t interfere with his life, it’s prob not a big deal. In fact, the Church tends to make things a lot worse by shaming boys for what I understand to be very ordinary behavior.

    If it’s truly compulsive and the boy is using masturbation to manage stress and not learning other ways to manage stress, and it’s interfering with his life (like he’s staying home to masturbate rather than spending time with friends and becoming isolated), then I’d say it’s not a healthy behavior. Not because it is “immoral” or unclean to masturbate, but because he’s taken something natural and normal and turned it into a compulsion that’s negatively impacting his own development in other areas and relationships.

    Honestly, while the line I am drawing is tricky because it’s situational, and requires us (gasp!) to think and judge for ourselves, I actually think it’s simpler than creating bright lines and then wondering when a make out session gets too steamy and needs to be confessed or whether oral sex within marriage is OK. Those are arbitrary rules about purity that aren’t tethered to actually caring for one another or ourselves, and I don’t think God cares at all about those arbitrary rules (that keep changing btw … see eg oral sex in marriage).

    I think the Church and American purity culture has done tremendous damage by treating sex as a purity issue instead, well, just sex I guess. Family members of mine who were bishops of YSA wards saw young adult men who’s development spiritually and otherwise was totally stunted by extreme shame over masturbation. I know so many women who have had sexually unfulfilling marriages because the couple didn’t know how and frankly a lot of women physiologically can’t get there with missionary style. There’s a reason people like Jennifer Finlayson-Fife – who I think I’m largely on the same page with (my masturbation examples come from her) – is so popular right now. And she is all about integrity, compassion, and communications. Not bright lined and purity.

    If you think the work I’ve done to understand human sexuality to develop my own sexual ethics makes me immoral because I don’t agree with some religious leaders who say that gay people in a long-term committed loving marital relationship can’t have sex, well, whatever I guess. I’m good with myself.

  21. “This is a lot of words to say you get to be judgmental but don’t like it when someone else is judgmental of you.”


    To put it in less words: you can’t upbraid conservatives for unnaturally not validating people’s built-in sexual proclivities but then turn around and say that male gaze-y porn use by guys is icky and they shouldn’t do it even if that’s what they feel a drive to do.

    @Elsa: You don’t want to drive traffic but I will; that’s a well thought and well written out explication for a progressive sexual paradigm. Now that you’ve laid things out: no, I don’t think yours is the viewpoint that the OP is discussing, but I push back on the idea that the anti-porn, pro-same-sex sealing feminist in the Church is a straw man. They most certainly exist. If I’ve happened to only run into thee handful that do exist, then this whole OP is indeed directed to a few, but again I doubt that’s the case.

    To answer a previous question about why I’m pushing against the left in recent posts: the right in the Church certainly has issues, but those get a lot more online discussion (and TV series made about them!) already, so they’re just not as interesting to bring up.

  22. Ken,

    I’m guessing that you’re single–and if so that gives you license to look twice. :D

    Elisa (et al),

    I think we need both compassion and “bright lines” — compassion in dealing with individuals and bright lines in bridling a community.

    Also, allowing “do no harm” to be the arbiter of proper sexual expression doesn’t always line up with the Law of Chastity. Obviously, the LoC may seem rather arbitrary to the world–but Latter-day Saints accept it (generally) because of their trust in a loving God. And so even though it may seem arbitrarily stringent to us folks in the West we must remember that when good secular society places boundaries on sexual activity — based on the “do no harm” axiom — it is a tacit admission that sexual desires can be controlled. In fact, it is an admission that those desires *must* be controlled (in certain instances at least) even if the person (or persons) involved believe they have no control of them.

    And so, when striving to find that delicate balance between compassion and bright lines what we don’t want to do is err so much on the side of compassion that we begin to believe the Law of Chastity to be impractical–both as individuals and as a community. As strict as it may seem living the LoC is within the scope of our powers.

  23. Brian G: “The beauty of leaving the church is you totally can pick and choose what you believe is right and wrong.”

    In or out of the church we have that freedom.

    Come back, brother.

  24. I support the law of chastity as a rule that we Latter-day Saints have adopted to govern ourselves. Our church is one of voluntary association, and our rules apply to ourselves. But we must distinguish between the law and the hedges around the law. The law of chastity is that persons have sexual intercourse only with their legally-wedded opposite-sex spouse. STOP. Everything beyond that, including things that we and even the Lord might think of as unchaste and/or improper, and not covered by our law of chastity.

    President Uchtdorf in his October 2009 conference talk, called “The Love of God”:

    “But this may present a problem for some because there are so many ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles — many coming from uninspired sources — complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea — something that may work for him or her — takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of ‘good ideas.'”

    There are proper places for hedges around the law, such as self-imposed, parent-imposed and society-imposed restraints and protections — but one must be careful when imposing hedges on others. And when doing so, one really should help others to understand the differences between the law and the hedges (rather than conflating, and then enforcing, everything as the law).

  25. Stephen C

    You keep talking about liberal Mormons but you don’t understand us.

    No one is saying that people can’t or shouldn’t control their sexual urges. I see no reason why there isn’t a moral argument that allows gay and transgender people freedom to have marriage, sex and relationships but still can still can be judgmental of other sexual acts. Many liberals would argue as Elisa has tried to do that there is space where porn and masturbation is not “icky” at all.

    Plus, we are not upbraiding or judging your worthiness. That is what the church does.

    The Law of Chastity as defined by the church is impractical. It doesn’t work for many peoples sexual lives that are healthy and consensual. The church would do better in my opinion to worry less about who is worthy and more about what is good. Then there would be space to accept and welcome our LGBT brothers and sisters without judging who is more worthy. We wouldn’t be pushing so much shame on straight cis members even for their perfectly natural and heathy sexual acts and urges. It isn’t even good for many married het couples. Not sure how it is helping. I would much rather have discussions about consent, integrity, and honesty for healthy sex within the church than the current Law of Chastity.

  26. The argument “X implies Y (and Y is awful), so if you don’t believe Y you should stop believing X” is popular in some circles–Ralph Hancock uses it a lot. It probably seems persuasive if you already don’t believe X and are willing to believe the worst about people who do (like that they secretly really do believe Y). But for people who do believe X, all the theoretical arguments that if you believe X you must believe Y founder faced with the empirical reality that you yourself believe X and don’t believe Y.

    The argument that if you reject any part of the Church’s teachings on chastity then you must be okay with pornography is particularly weak. (For the record, I don’t reject them.) It’s not hard to come up with completely secular reasons to oppose pornography. Pornography conveys false and negative messages about women, which at minimum strengthen the implicit biases of those who view it and make it that much harder for them to treat the women in their lives as equals or even as full-blown people. (Granted, for many secular people the solution is better pornography.)

    Again, I wonder about the purpose of the post. Is anyone really going to read it and say “Wow, I guess I better start accepting the full law of chastity as taught by the Church lest I start accepting pornography!” More likely, “You’re right–I can let go of the idea that pornography is harmful too!” Not an outcome a believing member should be seeking. Or is the real goal to convince members who are not “ProgMos” (what an awful term) that ProgMos may say they are only okay with same-sex marriage, but deep down they accept pornography and every other kind of evil?

  27. RLD,

    I think the problem is that believing X when we don’t believe everything about Y can be interpreted as a tacit approval of Y when we fail to criticize Y for fear of repudiating our belief in X. For example, some feminists have difficulty admitting feminism’s complicity in the destruction of the family and the proliferation of pornography for fear of discrediting feminism generally. But even so, there are times when we have to be *willing* to throw the baby out with the bathwater (so to speak) in order to get at the ugly truth.


    I think it’s more accurate to say: “The law of chastity is that persons have sexual [relations] only with their legally-wedded opposite-sex spouse.” And then allow the apostles’ counsel on the subject to round out what the term “relations” means with regard to chastity.

    Brian G:

    “No one is saying that people can’t or shouldn’t control their sexual urges.”

    I agree with what you say here. But the question (IMO) seems to boil down to *when* people ought to control their sexual urges. And the church’s teachings on chastity draw the line at a different point than the world does. Adult consent seems to be where the West has placed that marker. But latter-day saints believe that divine counsel challenges that placement–which may require that we take that challenge on faith. There’s no way to resolve the argument on chastity on purely secular grounds–though, IMO, there is plenty of good evidence as to why the church’s teachings on marriage and family is the best way to go with regard to these questions.

    Stephen C,

    I think you’ve written a very important and insightful post. I hope I haven’t derailed the conversation too much.

  28. @RLD: The argument is a little more precise than that. It’s not that the Latter-day Saint framework is the only internally consistent sexual ethos. For example, if you adhere to a religion that believes some sexual positions are wrong, I’m not going to say that your sexual belief system is logically incoherent because it doesn’t mirror mine. Specifically what I’m addressing is inconsistencies in trying to adopt the modern, secular ethos of “to each their own sexually as long as you’re not hurting anybody” but still trying to hold onto some of the norms of the gospel (e.g. anti-porn) that aren’t logically consistent with that attitude.

    In terms of the motivation; pointing out these interesting cases (e.g. the Relief Society sister on Only Fans) forces people to think about the implications of their sexual frameworks if they fit in the category of people I’ve been describing; what they actually do with the implications is their business.

    @ Brian: “No one is saying that people can’t or shouldn’t control their sexual urges.” If they aren’t hurting anybody and that’s what they enjoy doing then yes, people do say that. Again, the secular sexuality ethos (and yes I know there are multiple, but I’m addressing the central one) doesn’t fit well with the gospel’s framework on a number of points. If you want to pick the former over the latter, then fine, but then it’s harder to justify subtly holding onto some remnants of the gospel that logically conflict with the premises of that view (examples of which I’ve given above). That’s all I’m saying, and yes, there are plenty of people who do do that. If that doesn’t describe your ethos, then the OP isn’t addressing your framework.

    @Ji: I love that President Uchtdorf quote.

  29. I am late to this comment thread. I have very much appreciated this post and the comment thread.

    I think that the definition of pornography is very subjective. I know that I don’t like it, and I had a grotesque and unwilling encounter in college with pornography in the early 1970s that still remains in my mind to this day, much to my dismay. Pornography damages women, but it also damages men.

    But what is it, exactly? Potter Stewart was a Supreme Court justice in the 1950s-1960s, and famously said, “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.” A perceptive comment. I suspect that no two LDS definitions of pornography are the same. Some Mormons I know denounce Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel murals as pornograhic, for goodness’ sake, and let us remember the flap that ensued when BYU tried to display Rodin’s The Thinker. I refuse to regard the statue of the Venus de Milo as pornographic. At the same time, I cover my eyes and shake my head at the filth that is among us, today.

    I think our Church’s difficulties with pornography stem in good part from not creating wholesome sexual paradigms for members. Mark E. Peterson (Q12, 1943-1984) once made a notorious comment that in his several decades of marriage, he had never seen his wife undressed, and the thought of it was revolting to him. (!)

    How to strike a God-pleasing balance in sexual matters.

  30. There’s no logical inconsistency between “to each their own sexually as long as you’re not hurting anybody” and being anti-porn *if you think that porn hurts people.* I briefly described why some progressives think pornography hurts people; others might come to the same conclusion for different reasons. My politics are center-left rather than progressive by current definitions–and I make a point of not getting my sexual ethics from political sources–but there’s enough overlap that I’m familiar with the arguments.

    This is the problem with trying to tease out the implications of a worldview you don’t believe in. (Generic “you” here, not Stephen C specifically.) The people who do believe that worldview have been doing it for a lot longer than you have, and unless you put in some effort to learn what they actually think you’re likely to miss things they consider obvious. Then your argument completely fails to persuade its target audience, even as people who already agree with you cheer you on because they don’t know what you’ve missed either. It’s like naïve critics of the Book of Mormon who say “The Book of Mormon can’t be true–it plagiarizes whole chapters from the Bible!” while we believers have rich theological discussions of why Nephi copied extracts from Isaiah into his record, the significance of textual variations, etc.

  31. @Chadwick: We don’t judge people, but we are supposed to draw distinctions about righteous and unrighteous behavior, and that’s the point of the OP. Yes, it’s entirely possible that when we get to the other side the harlots will get into the kingdom of heaven before me, but that doesn’t mean that doing consensual sex work is divinely approved.

    And yet here you are judging people a mere sentence after you say we don’t judge people! Yes, calling another human being a harlot is judging people. Calling people you don’t like ProgMos is judgmental. I could go on and on as your post and comment responses are full of you judging people.

  32. @chadwick: My use of the term “harlot” was an allusion to scripture, and my use of the term ProgMo was simply a short hand for progressive Mormon. If it was seen as pejorative I apologize.

  33. RLD, I think it’s more like “when worldviews collide” than merely not understanding the other guy’s worldview. Now, imagine that I’m one of those with a deep familiarity with the Book of Mormon–to keep with the analogy–and I’m a social conservative (which I am). So I’m going to come at this with a belief that anything outside of the Law of Chastity is harmful. I think I have good reasons for my beliefs–which are logically consistent (to me) vis-a-vis my own social-political-religious values.

    And so, when I run head-on into a progressive latter-day saint who believes in the secular notion of “do no harm” (with regard to sexual expression) I’m going to be interested in understanding why he believes that (say) premarital sex is acceptable while viewing pornography is not.

    Now, the fact is that I’m not likely to agree with his explanations–not merely because of my own biases. But because I too have spent a lot of time with my own worldview–thinking through its many ramifications. Now that’s not to say that my progressive friend doesn’t have good reasons–according to his own values–for disagreeing with me. But it could mean that his explanations aren’t good enough for me and that *I* find them logically inconsistent even though he doesn’t.

    That said, I understand that I’m not defending Stephen’s exact argument. But I am suggesting that what may seem logically consistent on one side of the argument might look logically incoherent on the other–for the simple reason that a different set of values might skew the logic upon which the initial argument is premised. The initial argument might suggest that there are good reasons as to why premarital sex is permissible while pornography might be harmful. But a different set of values might suggest that because both are harmful it is logically inconsistent to suggest that the former is while the latter isn’t.

  34. @chadwick: My use of the term “harlot” was an allusion to scripture, and my use of the term ProgMo was simply a short hand for progressive Mormon. If it was seen as pejorative I apologize.

    I did see it as pejorative. Your clarification above also helps me see it another way. Thank you for the apology.

  35. Jack, I completely agree that when we try to understand someone else’s worldview it’s likely we won’t find the logic terribly compelling. As a believing Latter-day Saint, I don’t find “progressive sexual ethics” (not that that’s a well-defined term) terribly compelling, even if I agree with people who hold them on other issues.

    But if we’re trying to persuade someone, then what matters is what they find logically compelling. We want to provide evidence that will lead them to our conclusions, but it has to be evidence that they will find credible and accept. Thus we need to deeply understand their point of view. It takes a lot of work.

    Elder Robert S. Wood gave a great talk on this in the April 2006 General Conference (“Instruments of the Lord’s Peace”). A key quote:

    “I recall that as a graduate student I wrote a critique of an important political philosopher. It was clear that I disagreed with him. My professor told me that my paper was good, but not good enough. Before you launch into your criticism, she said, you must first present the strongest case for the position you are opposing, one that the philosopher himself could accept. I redid the paper. I still had important differences with the philosopher, but I understood him better, and I saw the strengths and virtues, as well as limitations, of his belief. I learned a lesson that I’ve applied across the spectrum of my life.”

    The whole talk is extremely relevant today and I highly recommend it.

  36. That’s an excellent quote, RLD. I appreciate your charitable approach to these questions–a good and well-timed reminder for me.

    Thank you.

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