During a routine meeting with his mission president, a young elder is surprised to be asked, “Elder, do you struggle with pornography?”
“Of course not, President! How could I be? I follow all the mission rules- I always stay with my companion, I work hard ad follow the schedule as best I can, and I only use the internet on P-day to email my family!”
The mission president leaned in, looked the missionary right in the eye, and said, “Elder, I’m talking about walking pornography.”
I heard this account, given as a true occurrence, several years ago in a Relief Society meeting. I’ve heard the term “walking pornography” here and there, and did some quick internet investigation of the story to see if it had some attributable origin. Perhaps it did happen, just like that, but it is likely just Mormon lore.
Mormon lore is a story that happened to somebody who knows somebody who you know, and they are repeated in order to encourage their hearers to follow certain gospel principles- some common examples are being miraculously physically protected by one’s temple garment, or receiving a check in the mail for the exact amount of money you paid in tithing the day before, in spite of being in financial crisis.
This particular account was shared to warn the sisters in room of the potential of being “walking pornography” in the eyes of men by dressing immodestly.
I have since retold the story, and have frequently shortened it’s message to, simply, “girls, let’s not be walking porn.”
I fell into the trap of equating dressing “immodestly” (which, by the way, what does that even mean?), with being pornographic.
To any of the women whom I may have had in mind, please, please, forgive me.
If pornography was just a stream of images of “scantily-clad” women, going about their days doing normal things like going to class, walking to the mailbox, and getting to know friends of friends, then I would be able to justify calling your average girl walking down the street in on a July afternoon “pornographic”.
But pornography is something different entirely. Pornography is routinely violent and degrading towards women. It is extreme and depicts the most deprave of situations. It glorifies the exploitation of adolescent sexuality- and does so legally.
And, at it’s worst, it abuses little children to serve it’s purposes. Sometimes, it rapes them.
A curve-revealing dress, a little jiggle of visible cleavage, or a thong peaking out the top of a yoga pant are not pornographic. Immodest? Maybe, who’s to say? But these things are entirely not porn. Porn is evil. A woman’s breasts, butt, legs and stomach are not.
You might be saying, “Even if women aren’t doing anything evil, their dress still encourages a pornography habit in men.”
Maybe it does contribute to it, but it is still not the same thing.
As stated above, porn often depicts things that are depraved, extreme, and even implausible- the real world and the porn world are two very different places.
Also, we absolutely must consider the intention behind a woman wearing clothes. And, in some cases, we are great at considering intention. For example, picture a young woman wearing a very short pair of shorts- they leave nothing about her form to the imagination. On top, she has on a tank top that is cut low in both the back and the front. Perhaps a sliver of midriff is showing. What did I just describe? Well, if she’s going out to dinner on Friday night, it’s a very immodest outfit. But if she’s at the beach on Saturday afternoon…she’s actually wearing a very modest bathing suit, as far as bathing suits go.
My point is that, as long as a woman is not dressing to specifically arouse men, she is not pornography. Actually, remove that disclaimer. Even if she IS trying to turn guys on, she still isn’t porn. Please understand that they are not the same thing.
So, girls, I’m sorry I called you porn. And I didn’t just do it once, I did it over, and over, and over again.
Please accept my apology.