“Watch Your Step” – A Review
Posted by ProgExMo
Last month, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a Mormon Messages video entitled, “Watch Your Step” – which is a visual story created to illustrate a talk given by Jeffrey R. Holland (Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) at the April 2010 General Conference. This video is meant to show “how a moment’s decision can have far-reaching consequences – for good or bad”, by illustrating two outcomes based on a man’s decision to, or not to, look at porn on his computer. This video is a perfect example of the Church’s ignorant and simplistic black and white thinking, and its use of fear and guilt to control its membership.
For those who are not familiar with the talk, it can be found on the LDS website here: ”Place No More For the Enemy of My Soul”.
While the video can be watched right here:
Though the overall message (along with the closing titles’ web address) is about the consequences of viewing pornography, not once is the term used – it’s simply implied. This leaves it to the viewer to discover and interpret what it is that the man is looking at on his computer – whether it be famous works of art, scantily clad runway models, photographic nudes, sex videos, snuff films, etc. So with the vagueness of what he’s looking at, we are purposely left to fill-in-the-blanks, and assume the worst (whatever your worst may be).
Just as Holland’s voiceover says, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so watch your step”, the video rewinds to bring the viewer back to what is presumed to be the point at which this man made a decision that causes him to leave (or be asked to leave) his family behind. The implication that the outcome, which we (the viewers) just witnessed, was directly caused by a singular decision, is absurd. There is rarely ever a single choice or specific event that becomes the exclusive factor in an outcome without additional influences or greater context surrounding it. A single decision doesn’t cause some kind of predetermined and predictable result, since everyone involved has the ability (to varying degrees) to choose how they react to someone else’s decision.
It’s also implied that looking at porn is automatically an addiction, which cannot be controlled and will consume every waking moment (ie: the man looking at his smart phone rather than drawing with his daughters). Countless people drink alcohol without becoming alcoholics, just as there are people who watch porn without becoming addicted. But this is exactly what the Church wants its viewers to believe: that the slippery slope is actually a crumbling cliff, with only one possible outcome for a misstep. This increases fear and anxiety, not only in the one ‘committing the sin’, but for those who become aware of that person’s actions. This in turn causes people to overreact to what would otherwise be a rather commonplace and benign situation.
With the cool-toned depressing video on the left, and the warm-toned happy video on the right, we’re then shown a blatantly false dichotomy of outcomes to this man’s decision to watch porn. Apparently, watching porn will guarantee that he will have arguments with his wife (who has no choice but to be angry and offended), leave his family, and wander the streets alone at night wearing a hoodie. Conversely, not watching porn will ensure he remembers to buy his wife flowers, stay with his family, and take them to the movies. Why can’t this man watch porn AND keep his family? There are countless men, and women, who watch porn without it affecting their relationships, not to mention couples who enjoy porn together. Why is it better for his family to be without their husband and father, than to have him remain in their life and continue to watch porn? How does viewing pornography become a justifiable reason to break up this family?
The Church also overlooks its own part in the story depicted: the social pressure generated by the Church and its membership to conform to a specific ideal, breeds intolerance toward anything seen as ‘deviant’ or abnormal. This pressure, along with other teachings of the Church, then help to encourage the very predetermined result that they warn will happen (ie: my weak husband watches porn, and I’ve been told that that is wrong, and if I don’t have a faithful and worthy priesthood holder as the head of my family, then I won’t gain eternal salvation. Thus, I best be rid of him so that I can find myself a stronger and more faithful husband.) Holland even says, “picture the faces of those who love you and would be shattered if you let them down”. This is basically telling us that if we watch porn, we will not only be disappointing our family, but inflicting harm on them. While at the same time, it is informing us that if we have a family member watching porn, we SHOULD feel “shattered”.
Viewing porn is only regarded as ‘wrong’ because that’s what the Church tells its membership. What is it that makes the naked human body, or our sexuality, inherently evil? Granted, the porn industry is highly misogynistic, sexist, and depicts women as mere sex objects – to which we all should take offense – but that is not inherent in nudity, sexuality, or the visual depiction of either. If you agree that a medical textbook’s images of sex and the naked human body is not porn, because it’s used in a different context, then you’d have to agree that context is highly relevant to whether or not nude images are considered porn. So this video’s blanket, yet vague, statement that porn is evil and will destroy your life, simply creates a false dichotomy that is ignorant to the vast majority of people who have perfectly happy marriages while enjoying pornography.
I’d like to finish off with a bit of a side note on the gender stereotyping that is used extensively throughout the video. First off, it’s a man that is shown to have the porn ‘problem’, thus reinforcing the idea that men are the weak ones who have trouble controlling their sexual desires. He is also portrayed by a rather muscular and tall man, who oozes masculinity while wearing his dress shirt & tie. While the woman is depicted as being a stay-at-home mom, even wearing an apron in the kitchen – well, at least in the gloomy events (On the happy side, she’s shown wearing no apron, and is arguably treated more as an equal).
Posted on 2011-08-14, in Culture, Mormonism, Sexuality and tagged addiction, apostle, General Conference, jeffery R. holland, LDS, Mormon, Mormon Messages, Nudity, porn, Porno, pornography, quorum of the twelve, Sex, sexuality. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.