Media Standards

When I was somewhere around four years old I was the driving force behind my mom’s eradication of her Madonna tapes.

We were in church, in the meeting known as Sacrament Meeting, where the entire congregation gathers to partake of the sacrament and listen to speakers teach about different gospel principles. During a quiet moment little four year old me decided it would be a perfect time to stand up in the pew and serenade the congregation with a song I had heard playing on my mom’s radio.

Like a virgin…

touched for the very first time…

Like a vir-ir-ir-ir-gin…

My mom mas mortified and couldn’t get home fast enough to throw all of her Madonna music and other similar ditties in the trash. I’m working to learn my lesson from her mistake instead of repeating it for myself. :)

Once upon a time I mentioned that TH and I have specific standards for the type of media we consume. Unfortunately I brought this up to an audience that is largely unfamiliar with the full spectrum of the LDS religion, and so the idea that my husband (then boyfriend) would express dissatisfaction with what I chose to watch was pretty appalling to a lot of you. I guess I forgot that a lot of relationships in the United States aren’t built around a belief system with standards that are so rigid in so many areas. For many things in the Mormon church, certainly not all but many, a bar is set and members are told to at least meet that bar. How far past that guideline you want to aim is up to you.

The official LDS Church statement on media is this:

Whatever media we read, watch, or listen to has an effect on us. Church members are counseled to choose only entertainment and media that are uplifting. Wholesome entertainment promotes good thoughts and righteous choices and allows participants to enjoy themselves without losing the Spirit of the Lord.

Church leaders talk a lot about the care we should take in selecting what we watch. Every six months we have a worldwide weekend of meetings via satellite called General Conference and I always expect at least three speakers to mention the importance of turning a critical eye toward the ideas and images we let into our brain through the types of media we choose. While speaking to the men of the Church our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson said:

Don’t be afraid to walk out of a movie, turn off a television set, or change a radio station if what’s being presented does not meet your Heavenly Father’s standards. In short, if you have any question about whether a particular movie, book, or other form of entertainment is appropriate, don’t see it, don’t read it, don’t participate.

He was quoting from some Church material called the For The Strength of Youth pamphlet. This pamphlet is filled with information regarding the standards of the Church including statements on integrity, health, dating, and media. I used this pamphlet myself while growing up and trying to figure out what kind of life I wanted to live. A few key points from the media section:

Our Heavenly Father has counseled us as Latter-day Saints to seek after “anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (Articles of Faith 1:13). Whatever you read, listen to, or watch makes an impression on you. Public entertainment and the media can provide you with much positive experience. They can uplift and inspire you, teach you good and moral principles, and bring you closer to the beauty this world offers. But they can also make what is wrong and evil look normal, exciting, and acceptable.

Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father. It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite. However, music may be used for wicked purposes. Music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity. You cannot afford to fill your minds with unworthy music. Music is an important and powerful part of life. You must consider your listening habits thoughtfully and prayerfully. You should be willing to control your listening habits and shun music that is spiritually harmful. Don’t listen to music that contains ideas that contradict principles of the gospel. Don’t listen to music that promotes Satanism or other evil practices, encourages immorality, uses foul and offensive language, or drives away the Spirit. Use careful judgment and maturity to choose the music you listen to and the level of its volume.

This is the information I heard over and over growing up, and over time I’ve worked to redefine and implement it into my life. It’s not a perfect system, but I try to use both logic and the influence of the Holy Ghost to determine the way God would want me to live. I’m going to list some of the decision I’ve made regarding media consumption in the past, and some of the standards I’m living now, but now that this is not a finite list. There are areas where I could certainly do better, and I acknowledge that. I’m weak, and I often make decisions based on what I want, not on what I think God wants for me. My own feelings about the standards God wants me to live are often markedly different than what another member of the LDS Church determines. One year from now my decisions will probably differ a bit from what I’m listing. Hopefully they will be better, but working towards perfection is hard, and I mess up a lot.

Before you read the list, you should know that I personally rate sexual content as more dangerous for my relationship with God than violence. Certainly the ideal would be to have a media diet completely free of any vulgarity, sexuality, violence, or other “bad” things, but I’m not ready to commit to such a lifestyle quite yet. So I try to keep the sexual content that I ingest to a bare minimum. We believe the sexual relationship between a man and a woman is a sacred thing. Not only because of its ability to create life, but also the way it affects a marital relationship and when treated appropriately can form a unique bond between husband and wife that is hard to replicate in any other way. I try to limit the consumption of sexual media not only because of the belief I have about the sacredness of sex, but also because of the way it affects me personally. I try to keep my thoughts clean and pure, I work to control my temptations, and when I let more and more sexual content into my life I find that to be incredibly difficult. I do not find myself being affected the same way when violence is involved, and so I am much stricter regarding sexuality than violence. That weakness of mine is what drives much of the choices I make concerning media standards.

One other thing. TH and I strive to find a balance that will eliminate a double standard when it comes to how we raise our children. When our children are teenagers we never want to say to them “Oh you can’t watch this because you aren’t old enough.” If they shouldn’t be watching it, we shouldn’t either. It’s going to be easier to eliminate things now than it will be later.

On to some of the choices I’ve made in my life regarding media consumption standards.

The most well-known standard among readers is my decision to no longer watch Friends. Grey’s Anatomy got axed from my life as well. These are shows that focus a lot on the sexual relationships between the main characters, and That Husband urged me to think about the message such storylines send, both to me and my children. I’m sure I don’t need to list all of the other shows I avoid, just think of how often people in the plot sleep together and you can get an idea for yourself. At one point in time I mentioned that I had stopped watching the shows Bones and House after TH had expressed that he wouldn’t like them in the house. Since that time we’ve actually relaxes a bit about those shows. Is that for the better? Maybe not, but like I said this is an evolving system we’re using.

I stopped reading Post Secret. I love the concept, and I certainly don’t think that some of the bad things that happen to people should be repressed. It’s wonderful that so many people have found the help they need through that site. I just didn’t get a good feeling whenever I read it.

I’ve never seen an R rated movie. I think it’s been altered as the MPAA standards have relaxed over time, but when I was growing up the Strength of Youth pamphlet stated that R rated movies were to be avoided, no questions asked. I set that goal for myself and I’ve never given in (although I have a nice list of movies that I’d really like to see if I ever change my mind). I wrote about an experience I had at BYU where I was surrounded by other members who didn’t think the same thing about movie ratings, which you can read in my Formspring response here. I use the site Kids-in-Mind whenever I’m deciding if I want to watch a PG-13 movie or not and as a family we’ve agreed that anything with a sexual content rating of 6 or more on that site is something we would like to avoid.

I don’t read steamy romantic novels, and I’m really careful about what chick lit I will read. I stay away from Glamour and other women’s magazines that feature lots of sex tips. Those are all triggers for me.

Pornography of any kind is out, out, out. This isn’t something I came up with, this is a cut and dried, no arguing about it, worldwide standard for the LDS Church. It’s talked about twice a year at General Conference and many other times throughout the year by the leadership of the Church.

I avoid music that uses extremely vulgar language or excessive amounts. I admit to letting a few “damns” and “hells” pass by without a though. I’ve never listened to the song Birthday Sex and I’m appalled that such a thing played on the radio. I purchased the song American Boy, apparently having only heard it in it’s radio edit form, and was pretty mad when I realized it swears. I busted out my audio editing softward and took that f-word right outta there.

Recently I read the book Fight Club for book club. I’m one of those “once I start reading I hate not finishing” type of people, and so I forced myself to finish. I looked up the plotline on Wikipedia because I was having such a hard time with it that I didn’t see how I was going to finish. Once I knew the big secret behind the storyline I was able to force myself to finish. Now that I look back on that I wish I had just given up. It was too violent, too crude, and I don’t feel good about reading it. Lesson learned.

As I said, this isn’t a finite thing for me. I’m constantly learning and growing and striving to determine where I should draw the line. It’s a work in progress and it takes prayer and thought and listening to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost to help me learn how I can do better than last time with each choice I make. I’ve made mistakes and been lax in the past, and from that I know that I feel better when I am working to eliminate the bad and make room for the good.

146 thoughts on “Media Standards

  1. I should stop watching all the “sexy” things I watch. It makes me feel weird and then wonder why things aren’t that “steamy” with me and my fiance. Is that what you do? That’s all I find that really bothers me though. Violence meh whatever. Cussing.. bring it on. I think I’m going to hell.

    Question. I have a friend (no seriously) who thinks mormon people have to do whatever their husbands want. And it’s like he’s the boss in the family and he can get you kicked out of the church whenever whenever he feels like it. I thought this was ridiculous when she told me and I have a close mormon guy friend and I could never see him doing this, he’s seriously the sweetest guy ever. But you always post about how your husband has you think about things and how you always end up in agreeance with him. I do understand this isn’t his blog so you’re not going to post every time you tell him something and he agrees or whatever. But yeah, guess I’m just wondering where you stand on this. I’m scared to ask my guy friend.

    Please don’t get mad. I’m not getting all judgy, I’m seriously just curious.

    Jenna Reply:

    Not judgy at all! I think one reason things come across as so one-sided is that I don’t post about the things that I ask TH to improve on. It’s part of the blogging deal. He gives me a lot of leeway regarding what I write about, but I don’t get to “tarnish his brand” by hanging his own personal dirty laundry out for all of you to see.

    When I talk about my own faults though, and then say how he’s contributed to figuring out how things can be improved, it can be interpreted as him telling me what to do. I guess I don’t see it that way because I know all of the things I’ve made him work on as well!

    Plus, the LDS Church is pretty verbal about what is right and wrong in a lot of areas, so much of the time there isn’t much wiggle room. I admit I certainly married someone who is better than me in almost every area, so yeah, a lot of the time he ends up being the one that lifts me up to him in terms of my standards. I like that though. I am a better person because of him.

    The perception that men have this power over women and can force you to do anything they want, even getting you kicked out of the Church, is very, very false. And kind of sad. That’s not been my experience at all. :(

    Andrea Reply:

    It is sad. And I’m really glad to hear you say that it’s not like that! Oh and have you seen that show Big Love?

    Jenna Reply:

    I haven’t. It’s a pretty inaccurate picture of the LDS Church though. You get kicked out if you are a polygamist now.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Honestly, Big Love made me more interested and curious about the Mormon church. I don’t think it portrays the Mormons negatively. Most of the storyline follows the polygamist family, but it shows their struggle to stay away from the mainstream LDS church. I know a lot of Mormons are very against the show, but I think it makes the LDS church seem so much more mainstream compared to what the central characters are practicing. I think the also portray some of the more beautiful aspects of your religion, their devotion to God, the importance of family, and their purpose in this life. Not that I expect you to start watching, but I thought maybe it would give you some comfort to know that a non-LDS actually felt like it was a positive portrayal of your religion.

    Jenna Reply:

    I’ve heard this a few times and I’m glad. I think we as a people are just hypersensitive to people confusing us with the FLDS church

    Andrea Reply:

    I think most people know that mormons are not polygamous and you guys don’t all live on those freaky compounds. Those people are super extreme. And if people don’t know that.. their flipping retarded.

    Mrs. Kitten Reply:

    I know someone already touched on this, but Big Love actually does a fantastic job of distinguishing between FLDS and LDS. The premise of the show is that this polygamous family, which broke free from the FLDS compound, is living in secret in an affluent SLC suburb. The reason they are living in secret is because their predominately LDS community strongly disapproves, like most Americans do, of polygamy. And they are always on the verge of being found out, which would be a disaster for the family since the husband owns a big home-improvement store and is a state senator (and presumably the LDS community would disapprove of his lifestyle and stop supporting his business/political position). Anyway, I know a lot of LDS were upset that the show would lead to confusion between the two, but the whole premise of the show is that this family is not LDS, which is the mainstream society, in contrast to the FLDS clan on the compound. The message is really clear.

    Not that you would love the show. There is a lot of sex and infidelity going on. Plus, there was a scene a few seasons back that portrayed a temple visit, which I’m pretty sure LDS would not be thrilled about. One of the wives was about to be excommunicated from the Church (maybe for being a polygamist, I can’t remember), and she went in for one last temple experience. I thought the show really tried to make the whole thing look sacred and beautiful and didn’t focus on the ordinances and rituals, more on the feeling one gets by being in temple. But I can understand why LDS would be offended to see something they regard as sacred 1) on TV period and 2) on a show that can be kind of sleazy.

    Katy Reply:

    Those men that would be controlling are found in all religons and walks of life – if a man is going to be the “supreme dictator”, he’s going to use anything he can as an excuse (religion for one) but he’s grossly misusing his position in the family (of course).

    Whoever told you about the husband being the big-bossy-boss was hopefully not speaking from any personal experience, because as Jenna said, that is very sad.

  2. I saw your tweet a little bit ago and I don’t see why anyone would pass judgment for a post like this. Who cares if you don’t want to watch silly basic cable?

    I agree that even from a secular view, it’s important to be mindful of what media we ingest. Where everyone draws the line is different and I’ve never really considered making it a conscious decision. Probably when I have children that will change.

    I also have to say that I love how you and TH make decisions together. Maybe this is where people want to leave judgy comments? I get really tired of outdated, leftover “feminist” sentiment that is only meant to belittle men. I always appreciate reading about your more traditional-ish marriage and how you value TH’s opinion. Makes me all warm and fuzzy :D My marriage is similar.

    Oh, and you’re not missing much in those magazines. The “tips” are really very terrible.

    Andrea Reply:

    Bahah the tips really are terrible. Usually my fiance is like “Err what? Lets not do that.” And yet.. I keep reading.

    Wee Reply:

    Ha! The “tips” are the same 10, weird things every month in those magazines. Definitely not worth the $5.99.

    I have a question about your comment about temptation and pure thoughts, etc. Since you’re married and in a committed sexual relationship, I was wondering what would be considered a temptation that should be avoided. I don’t need a laundry list or anything like that, but are there certain things that you and TH aren’t permitted to do according to church guidelines? I’m thinking about that catholic prayer where the man prays and tells God that they’re only having sex to procreate and not for pleasure at all. Are the LDS guidelines similar? Or is this more about not thinking about sex all day and only being sexual with your husband?

    Senora H-B Reply:

    I’m LDS and, no, there aren’t any specific guidelines about what is and is not ok within the bonds of marriage. On the Church’s website, it says the following (under chastity): “Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love within marriage.” I think the “expression of love within marriage” is what really differentiates LDS doctrine from the Catholic doctrine you mention.

    The official LDS stance on birth control (again from the church website, under birth control) “Children are one of the greatest blessings in life, and their birth into loving and nurturing families is central to God’s purposes for humanity. When husband and wife are physically able, they have the privilege and responsibility to bring children into the world and to nurture them. The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is a private matter for the husband and wife.”

    I think both of these statements are pretty indicative of the LDS Church’s stance on sexuality. My reading is “Don’t do it until you’re married. Once you’re married, it’s between you and your husband–and ONLY you and your husband.” For me that explicitly rules out involving other people in sex acts, as well as pornographic material. It also seems to indicate that sex should always be with your partner–ruling out any kind of totally solo activity.

    However, I think it’s crucial to point out that, in a marriage relationship (as Jenna mentions), things are meant to be equal. So if one partner is not comfortable with a particular behavior, then it’s out. Neither husband nor wife should force the other to do something they don’t want to.

    Bottom line, no, beyond the few exceptions I mentioned above, the LDS church doesn’t have specific doctrine regarding sexual intimacy within the bonds of marriage. It’s really left up to the husband and wife to make decisions that they feel are acceptable to God.

    R Reply:

    There’s some misrepresentation of the Catholic dogma in this thread. According to the Theology of the Body, which is the contemporary go-to written by Pope John Paul II, sex is *both* procreative and unitive (i.e. about the marital bond). In fact, for example, Catholic doctrine that prohibits assisted reproductive technologies isn’t about about whether or not embryos may go to waste (as people so often think) but that it potentially takes away from the unitive nature of sex within a marriage.

    Senora H-B Reply:

    Thanks for the clarification!

    Wee Reply:

    Thanks, that was really helpful!

    Er, as a lapsed Catholic I admit, I don’t keep up on the doctrines and was just remembering what I learned in those Wednesday night classes as a kid, sorry to misrepresent!

    R Reply:

    Ha! I’m totally lapsed myself but had a lot of Catholic education.

    Katy Reply:

    That was a good answer, Senora H-B. Couldn’t have expressed it better!

    Jackie Reply:

    I don’t know about LDS’s, but I’m Catholic and we are NOT taught that sex is for procreation only… we are taught that the sexual act between husband and wife is to be always OPEN to creating life (ie. no contraceptives) but also ALWAYS towards the benefit of the marriage (sex is pleasurable, and it’s that way for a reason!)

    Sophia Reply:

    Sarah for Real-

    I’m not sure where you stand on feminism, but as an ardent feminist who also studied gender relations I just wanted to pipe in and say that “belittling” men has nothing, at all, to do with feminism. It isn’t the goal, it isn’t even a desired byproduct. Any person who uses feminism as a way to belittle men is misusing the label, and giving others in the group a bad name. I’m really not trying to be negative, it’s just that as a feminist I get really frustrated with hearing people think feminism is about belittling men, or bringing men down, or masculinizing women, etc. There are inaccurate negative stereotypes of every group, there are weirdo fringe members who do stupid things and tarnish the group, and feminism is no exception.

    Sarah for Real Reply:

    Interesting, thanks for the clarification. I will refer to it as an “undesired byproduct” like you describe. I have not studied feminism but I can see your point about group stereotypes and will try to choose my words more carefully.

    Sophia Reply:

    I *really* hope you don’t think I was trying to snap at you or anything, it’s just that sometimes it’s hard for me to self identify as a feminist because of the negative baggage associated with it, so I try to speak up and present feminism as a normal, mainstream kind of thing, because it’s often overtaken by the crazies on the fringe :)

    Sarah for Real Reply:

    Nope! I can see how, like with most things there are the “crazies.” Though I have to admit ignorance when it comes to what non-crazies believe Feminism is intended for these days.

    Penny Reply:

    as a non crazy feminist, I can say that I believe that men and women should have the same opportunities, the same pay, the same benefits and civil rights. less than 100 years ago women could not vote, less than 50 years ago women could not drive a car. Today, women make 25 cents less than men per hour, even if they are doing the same job with the same qualifications. I think making progress on these lines is what feminism is about, not about making women better than men.

    Sophia Reply:

    Yes, Penny, exactly.

    So many people think that there is “no reason for feminism” anymore. Yet even a cursory glance at sociological studies on poverty, abuse, sexual violence, pay, sexual harassment, access to healthcare, etc. etc. shows that women are not, as a whole, equal even in a first world country such as America.

    And then, when you broaden the scope, and you look at things like bride burnings, FGM, child brides, ritualized rape, sex trafficking… the picture gets even more grim. Feminism is about equality of opportunity, rights, protections, and responsibilities. It isn’t about making men and women the same, but it is about ferreting out practices in our society and in other societies that contribute to the oppression of women.

    phruphru Reply:

    THANK YOU, Sophia. “Feminist” is not a bad word.

  3. This is a great post, and it helped me understand where you’re coming from (you cross my mind occasionally when I watch Friends). I clicked through to the one you wrote about TH not being a jerk–I have to say that I just love that picture of you two! You look so happy and in love. I think you+TH’s relationship and the high standards you set for yourselves are so admirable and that the way you present yourself to the social media world is one that many people should take lessons from. You’re an inspiration to all of us, even the ones who come from different backgrounds or belief systems. <3

  4. I’m the same way about finishing a book once I start, but I did have to put “The Pillars of the Earth” down for good even though it came highly recommended. Too much everything– violence, sex, what-have-you… I thought, if it doesn’t uplift me or make me think differently about the world, it’s not worth my time. “Is it worth my time?” has now become another driving force behind what media I consume.

    Maybe you saw my recent post about lyrics and the music I listen to– that I’m also exposing to my kids? Similar ideas. :)

  5. I think it’s great to shared this. I think I could definitely take a look at what I allow in my life as far as media. I do try to be aware of what I am listening to, watching, etc. Whenever I buy anything on ITunes I always buy the “clean” version. If I don’t miss the swears on the radio I certainly won’t miss them on my IPod!

  6. My mom stopped watching soap operas when I was a kid because I started mimicking the characters from the shows! Hearing something come out of a kid really gives you perspective about whether or not something is appropriate.

    I have almost no tolerance for violence and much prefer comedies to dramas. It drives my sister a bit crazy when we pick out a movie together. She says I am missing out on movies that can provide insight into different experiences that allows us to have greater empathy for people that are so wholly different from ourselves, as well as understand why we do what we do. (We’re not talking about ridiculous movies like Saw or Striptease.) And you know what? I think she’s right.

    Yeah it’s unfortunate that many moviemakers think they have to include gratuitous violence or sex, but I don’t necessarily want to miss out on a really compelling story or characters because of a few minutes of gratuitousness or cussing. There are a lot of tough, difficult things to digest in life, and at least for me, avoiding the tough parts keeps me from growing (not that I want more tough parts!)

    BUT, I don’t think there is anything wrong with choosing not to watch certain movies or shows, particularly if you don’t think they contribute to your own personal growth and understanding, or if it preys on a weakness of yours. Each person has the right to choose what they think is appropriate for them (though I do get annoyed when people try to force their choices on me!)

    I think your thoughts on this pretty closely align to mine, particularly when reading your comment about “Pillars of the Earth” not making you think differently about the world.

    For all that, I still mostly watch comedies :)

  7. Really great post! Thanks for sharing your personal standards!

    My family lived abroad for a number of years, during which time the ‘For the Strength of Youth’ pamphlet was revised. My understanding is that the main reason it was changed was to accommodate international members of the LDS Church.

    Ratings by the MPAA are specific to the United States. So, a movie that got an R-rating in the US might have a completely different rating in Spain or even Canada. Furthermore, as you mention, the R-rating means something different now than it did 20 years ago. Not to mention that the MPAA is relatively arbitrary in their decision-making process.

    Finally, I think it’s also indicative of the church’s desire that individual members use the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide them in making their decisions. Doctrine & Covenants 58:26 ( says “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.”

    I personally love that we’re asked to make our own decisions about media. It lets you choose to avoid everything that has heavy sexual content because it makes you so uncomfortable. It allows me to avoid really violent movies because I have nightmares for weeks afterwards. And, as members of the church, neither of us (should) judge the other for the movies that we choose to (not) watch.

  8. I have noticed that your writing style has changed slightly. You seem to be striving to write things less matter-of-factly and more openly. This post sounds like an explanation whereas the other one sort of sounded like a challenge. It is awesome and makes it much easier to relate to you.

    susie Reply:

    I SO agree – your style has changed wonderfully – there is never anything wrong with saying what you believe, but you have started writing in a much less confrontational for the sake of it way and begun to just share your perspective and the lack of nasty comments speaks for itself! Great job, Jenna!

  9. You must do what feels right for you. Because I don’t have a religion, I just decide the things you’ve mentioned in your post on what makes me, personally, feel uncomfortable. I don’t mind watching shows with lots of sex, like True Blood and Californication, but there are MANY songs that make me feel very uncomfortable and …I don’t know…almost ANGRY inside when I listen to them. I think it’s because on the shows they are just fictional people I’m watching, in another world that isn’t mine, but a song seems more personal, like it’s talking to ME directly. I don’t generally mind swearing in songs as long as it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Man, this is hard to describe!

    Sometimes you do need a good F-word for emphasis, though. Just my personal opinion! My hubby is in a play at the moment (Noises Off), where the director (of the play within the play) gets very upset at them and says the F-word a few times. Last night the actor changed it to “hell” because his kids were in the audience, and it lost all its impact. But these things are very personal, and to other people it probably wouldn’t matter one way or the other, and other people might still be offended at the H-word. So you have to do what feels right for your life.

    Cristin Reply:

    I agree with you, Kat. What Jenna wrote about was how personal these decisions are for her and how they are based on her life and experiences. I’m glad that nobody has tried to debate or invalidate her experiences or opinions (at least, not so far in this thread!). What touches a nerve for one person may be completely neutral for another.

  10. I’m curious how these standards work in the BYU English Department. Were you limited in the literature and films that you critqued? You mention trashy novels, but a lot of traditional canonical literature would also fail to meet those standards– how does this work into your considerations?

    Senora H-B Reply:

    Sorry to be such a talky-Mctalkerson this morning!

    @Turtle–I have a friend who was just hired as a professor by the BYU English Department. She earned her Master’s at BYU, so she has actually taught there before. A group of us (all BYU grads) were talking about this question and she mentioned that it’s actually a problematic aspect of teaching at BYU.

    There is not official list of books or other media that are/are not appropriate to be taught. Therefore, the decision of what to teach is left up to the professor. (And really, as a professor, that’s the way it should be.)

    However, students have a right to not read the book or consume the media based on their reaction to it. (Which, as a student, is also the way it should be.)

    One of the issues for her was determining whether a student genuinely did not feel comfortable reading the book or was just trying to get out of an assignment.

    I certainly think it’s an interesting dilemma, but for what it’s worth, as a student at BYU, I was never presented in my coursework with something I didn’t feel comfortable reading, listening to, or watching.

    Senora H-B Reply:

    I should also clarify that the education I received in both English and Spanish literatures, as well as the humanities is comparable to that of my friends (LDS and not) from other institutions.

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m curious to hear what books you may be thinking of specifically?

    I did take a class on Cormac McCarthy and though I feel comfortable about what I read (unlike Fight Club) I would say that that particular class was on the “fringe”, IMO. I can’t think of any “classics” that are as sexual as a Danielle Steele novel though.

    Grace Reply:

    I’ve only read one Danielle Steele novel (it was terrible), but given that, there are a lot of classics that are very sexual/violent.
    Sexual: The Golden Ass by Apuleius (sex, bestiality, orgies, etc.; it’s perhaps the world’s first novel); The Canterbury Tales (most of the stories are about sex: the Miller’s Tale, the Reeve’s Tale, etc.); Boccaccio’s Decameron; Moll Flanders by Defoe (the heroine is a prostitute); Tom Jones; Dangerous Liaisons; Lady Chatterly’s Lover, etc. Most classic Asian (Japanese/Chinese) literature is also pretty sexual (China’s most famous novel includes masturbation, incest, infidelity, homosexuality and prostitutes of both sexes).
    Violent: Don Quixote is incredibly violent: so is most of Shakespeare (ie Titus Andronicus), Beowulf and the Iliad.

    Jenna Reply:

    I’ve only read a few of what you mentioned, The Canterbury Tales, some Shakespeare, and Beowulf.

    Regarding The Canterbury Tales, I think for me it doesn’t have a triggering effect the same way a romance novel does because the references to sexuality aren’t as descriptive. Does that make sense? Chaucer’s intention seems like it was more to shock than to arouse, the way most chick lit novels do. Plus it’s written in this “old time” way that is difficult to understand. Maybe if it was saying things like “And he taketh his fingers and rested them on her bosom and stroked gentle, and he feeleth the nipples turn erect” (umm that was a really poor attempt, ha!) then I would be singing a different tune.

    As for some of the others you listed, like the Asian ones, I probably just wouldn’t read them.

    And like I said, I don’t find violence as triggering as sexuality. Also with these old volumes the writing is difficult for me to interpret so I don’t focus on the details the way I do with modern stuff. I’m just trying to keep track of who is who and what they are doing now.

  11. Why would the volume of a particular song be of interest to the church? I’m curious as to that point. The Catholic Church, I’m pretty sure, has these same issues with popular culture and would caution me to be the same. But the volume? I’m just confused!

    Jenna Reply:

    My guess is that it’s a caution to care for your body (we all know that very loud music can cause damage later on) because we consider the body to be a temple. Loud music also drives out all possibility for influence from outside influences, especially the Holy Ghost. Also we want to be good fellow citizens and if you’re living close to other people it’s just a rude thing to do.

  12. This seems very reductionist to me. Of course there are tons of things that I read/watch/listen to that aren’t appropriate for a child, but it seems like a bizarre infantalization to say “ok well I’m not going to consume this myself because if my eight-year-old shouldn’t be watching this, I shouldn’t either.” I mean, I drive, and eight-year-olds don’t. That doesn’t strike me as a double standard.

    Jenna Reply:

    I think things should be interpreted in the context of someone who is basing their judgements on what they think the Holy Ghost is telling them. If you’re making your judgements based on the Spirit rather than logic your conclusions are probably going to be very different.

    Jessica Reply:

    I thought of something like this, too. Children aren’t able to participate in adult activities that can be dangerous, like driving or construction, and they aren’t yet able to do high-level math or perform surgery, but those distinctions aren’t the point here about media.

    I agree with the point Jenna is making. Why say adults can understand sex and violence in the context of a movie, but children shouldn’t be exposed to it? Here’s why: it becomes acceptable for no reason other than repeated exposure. So an adult who can initially understand that not everyone is acting in that way soon forgets it, consciously or not, simply by watching or reading such things. Just like ratings standards have relaxed, our standards as a society have relaxed (can you imagine there being an uproar over Lady Chatterly’s Lover now?) this can happen within a person, too. I think it’s admirable not to condition yourself to these things. They aren’t as popular as you might think. My life isn’t like Friends or Grey’s. Why put myself in that world for entertainment?

  13. This is a terrific post. I too am way more affected by the sexual content than the violence in a movie, book, or tv show and my rules are pretty similar to yours. I need to be better about giving up on books that are too racy, though. I just hate to stop a book halfway through.

    Love the story about the Madonna song. I would die.

  14. I don’t watch violence, and it has nothing to do with religious beliefs. I started having terrible nightmares after watching TV and movies with violence, and I realized that even as I sleep, my mind keeps cycling through the images. You can’t get exposure like that out of your subconscious, and that was a very unnerving revelation.

    I never particularly enjoyed watching violent media anyway, so it’s not too difficult. But it’s amazing- and disturbing- to me that people are shocked by my no-violence policy. What about about CSI? they say. Nope. I haven’t seen Braveheart, Fight Club, or any of the Godfather movies. I really don’t feel like I’m missing anything at all.

    I actually wish that all people would be more intentional with their consumption of media. It’s like you say- only YOU can know how different elements affect you personally, and it’s good to be self-aware. Hopefully this post spurs some thought!

  15. Jenna, I’m not LDS, so I’m a little confused. You say watching/consuming certain sexual content is a ‘trigger’ for you that you need to avoid. Trigger to what, if I can ask? If you are married, and only intimate with your husband, what could these materials trigger that is wrong?

    Jenna Reply:

    Masturbation is off limits, and though I’m not sure I would say there is a hard and fast rule spending a lot of time thinking about sexual fantasies is off-limits as well I think, especially sexual fantasies that involve someone other than your spouse.

    Liz Reply:

    Why is masturbation and fantasizing off limits? And how about dancing? I guess I have a hard time understanding a religion that would limit such primal things.

    Jackie Reply:

    For Catholics – masturbation is off limits because we believe that while our sexual nature isn’t bad in any way (as some people think Catholics believe) we believe it is entirely intrinsic to our married lives… I found this on a website “The act of self-gratification in masturbation, if it is practised by a person on his/her own, lacks the full meaning of human sexuality which is directed towards a loving relationship.”

    This kind of even goes on to prohibit full oral sex – for the ‘use’ of foreplay it can be okay, but not to the point of climax… that’s reserved for intercourse.

    Katy Reply:

    Dancing is not off limits, in fact BYU has some of the best dancing groups anywhere and I think a number of finalists on So You Think You Can Dance have been LDS (I think). Is that I common misconception about LDS people…I think I’ve heard that recently for the first time in my life…:)

    We believe in being in control of our bodies, not our bodies controlling us (which is one reason we also avoid alcohol, tobacco, etc). However, no one just wakes up and does things they feel to be wrong – it’s often a gradual process that begins with simple thoughts. In an effort to not go down a road that we don’t want to be down, we try to screen our entertainment. Am I saying that if we watch gratitious sex we’ll go out the next day and cheat on our spouses? No, but actions that we often later regret don’t come out of thin air. They come from mindsets that we develop over time (fantasizing obsessively about someone not your spouse comes to mind), and those mindsets come from simple thoughts built up over time, and those simple thoughts come from built up exposure to media and ideas that go against what we originally believed to be true. That doesn’t mean everyone that partakes in gratititous entertainment will end up in such extremes, but why go down a potentially harmful road when you don’t have to?

    Jenna Reply:

    I think the limit on masturbation also has to do with how it forces the couple to work together to satisfy sexual desires. There is no turning to yourself to get it done. Also, masturbation and pornography go hand in hand. It’s hard to resist the temptation to seek out things that will increase the buildup even more each time when you are going at it solo.

    Stephanie Reply:

    I am having a hard time understanding this as well. I don’t watch overtly sexual programs, but I think I probably watch programs Jenna might consider too sexual (no judgment!). Im not sure I understand the sexual temptation, even after it was explained. I don’t have a desire for any of the things mentioned after watching House or Friends. Obviously everyone is different, but that never occurred to me before.
    Should mention I AM married and a religious person. Probably more on the liberal side than most, however. Maybe someone can help me understand better?

    LPC Reply:

    I just can’t imagine that watching Friends is going to be so arousing that someone can’t wait for their husband to get home:). Really not trying to be a jerk here. I can only imagine that you aren’t even supposed to have thoughts about sex when your husband isn’t around?

    Jenna Reply:

    No I don’t think you are being a jerk. The issue with friends wasn’t so much that it’s arousing, but the attitude it has toward sex in general. Everyone sleeps around, with old people, young people, each other. Masturbation and porn are glorified. It’s just full of things things that we don’t agree with and over time if you watch those attitudes over and over those things start to feel “normal”. It is that feeling of normalcy in regards to extra-marital and pre-marital sex and viewing pornography and self-stimulation that I would like to avoid.

    I feel like I’m not explaining myself that well because each show/song/book/movie/website needs to be evaluated differently, you know?

    LPC Reply:

    OK. If it’s the overall values, vs. any arousing content per se, I understand.

    Liz Reply:

    Whats wrong with people who do choose to have sex outside of marriage or masturbate, etc? If we’re good people who care about ourselves and the world around us, isn’t that the most important? I am a peaceful, loving human being who fights for social justice and equality. I’m also agnostic, married to an awesome guy and have a dad who’s an Anglican priest (who also fights for social justice and equality). I view masturbation as a way to self-explore and discover more about ones self,not as a way to go outside of my marriage. It’s also one of the most natural things and isn’t harmful to others. If you view sex as a way to procreate and unify can you not also include masturbation as part of getting to know yourself?

    Cristin Reply:

    I don’t think that Jenna was trying to imply a judgement in her post. She was trying to explain her position to people who have questioned her media choices. Its only a judgement if you think that choosing something different than someone else = judging that person’s choices. She is only “judging” in that she’s chosen a different path for her lifestyle than you have; in the way that you would be “judging” her for choosing a different path for yours.

  16. I like this post. We are trying to cut things out too, but I can’t seem to get that dang show True Blood out of my system. Pray for me.

    I have cut out music that makes me uncomfortable (sexual content or violence) and music that belittles me as a woman. Lady Gaga comes to mind. Her latest video make me so uncomfotable and really sad.

    On another note. I have taken charge of what I will let B watch in regards to TV. There’s just something about a little child knowing what McDonalds and Dora the Explorer is before anything else.

  17. I really enjoyed this post (and my face flamed bright red just IMAGINING your poor mother at church!) and I love that you and TH work together to “lift each other up” to the standards of your religion and those you’ve set for yourself.

  18. When I worked as a nanny, I remember getting in the car one day to drive the kids to the park. The youngest was 4 and before I had him buckled in, he started requesting ‘the animal song’. I started listing off any song I could think of that talked about animals but wasn’t having any luck. He was becoming quite frustrated when his 6 year old sister told him to start singing it. I will never forget the shock when he busted out ‘you and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals…’. I became even more aware of how much kids pick-up on when a few weeks later the children I was babysitting said they wanted to watch theory parents movies and proceeded to pull out a stack of rated R movies that their parents were positive they had no idea existed. If I have learned anything about children, it is that they are sponges that can smell a double standard a mile away. While I am sure there will be movies I hold back from my kids – ie ones which would be too scary for a 5 year old or too complicated for my 7 year old- I want my standards to be similar to what I feel comfortable letting my somewhat older children watch. I think that’s why the Church leaders refer back to For The Strength of Youth, which is given to children around the age of 12.

  19. When I finished reading this post, I was a bit jealous.

    See, I’ve been in several situations, sometimes with my own family, where we’ve been watching a movie that involves graphic, horrifying sexual violence against women. They wouldn’t turn it off, and I felt weird leaving the room, so I stayed. Which was definitely the wrong choice.

    I don’t know if it’s because I’ve worked with victims of rape, or if I’m just more sensitive than others, but once I see/hear those scenes they stay with me for a long time. I often can’t sleep at all after seeing such things, or I have nightmares.

    Now I have enough of a spine to just leave the room or turn it off if I suspect it’s about to get bad – and sadly, it seems like it does more and more often, even on network TV – and my husband understands that those scenes affect me on a visceral level, so he’s on my side (in fact, he’s become much more sensitive to such scenes and will change the channel immediately if some woman’s about to get attacked).

    I think you’re fortunate, to have a set of standards you share with most of the people in your life. Even if they’re guidelines that are up to interpretation, I can’t imagine you’d worry about upsetting your family if you chose not to watch a particular movie or TV show.

    Thanks for expounding on these standards. I think any of us can gain something from really considering how media consumption affects us.

    R Reply:

    We are all adults in my family and still turn off shows and movies with sexual content if we’re watching with my father.

    Jackie Reply:

    We do too… but then I often think “if we would be turning this off because our father’s around, should we be watching it at all?”

    R Reply:

    I don’t think about it like that, but that’s because in my family we take it for granted that there are somethings we just don’t discuss with my dad. We’re all girls except for my dad, so we try to not traumatize him too much.

    In general, sex is not something that we talk about around my dad, although he’ll tell us about golf buddies’ infidelities – mostly to speak disapprovingly of them.

    In truth, I’m not the biggest fan of movies – I have to really want to see it to give it 2 hours of my life. Mostly I watch TV shows from networks or basic cable, which are fairly tame for my sensibilities. I do watch some Showtime or HBO shows and I think they show sex and nudity in a way that is completely unnecessary and irrelevant to the plot — just because they can. (It’s not funny, it doesn’t add to the viewing experience — or not this viewer’s experience at least.)

    Jenna Reply:

    R, I swear I could have written this comment myself.

    We also change the channel around my dad. If he speaks about sex it is also to try to teach us something.

    I’m also really picky about what movies I watch! I read ratings sites and kids-in-mind a bit obsessively and I hate wasting my money and my time on things that are poorly made or inappropriate. This leaves me watching a lot of TV. My current favorite show is Smallville. I hope they aren’t going to try to make things “edgy” later on because I really love it.

    R Reply:

    That’s so funny :) I’m trying to remember if you’ve said you have Netflix. It has revolutionized my media consumption. I do the 1-disc at a time and don’t even bother with the discs and just watch the on-demand. It’s cheaper than a Blockbuster rental (not that I know of a video store that’s even in business!) and I don’t have to feel bad if I watch part of something and decide there’s no point in continuing.

    Jenna Reply:

    Netflix is how I’m watching Smallville right now!

    Jessica Reply:

    I totally agree that usually in movies/tv when they show sex or nudity it’s completely unrelated to the plot. It’s so annoying!

    schmei Reply:

    I agree! There was an episode of “House” a while ago that would have been interesting if they hadn’t veered off into an unnecessary sex scene. It’s called writing, people…

    schmei Reply:

    “I’m not the biggest fan of movies” – I think I’m coming to terms with this being true about myself, too. Unfortunately, my in-laws, who I love, think it’s normal to watch at least one movie per night. Every. Single. Night. And two on weekend nights. I’ve had to sit through some terrible stuff.

    I don’t enjoy seeing sex scenes, though I’ve learned to live with those, and I can close my eyes or whatever. It’s more scenes of sexual violence that I just cannot handle. And sadly the one thing you don’t do if my father-in-law is watching is turn off the TV.

    So: I’m still jealous. I wish it was cool to turn it off with the parents-in-law around, as I wouldn’t watch the stuff at all if I had a choice. I’ve tried just opting out, but then I’m the pariah reading in the basement while the whole family is watching a movie upstairs…

    This isn’t as much of an issue with my parents, as we all tend to watch things like Pixar movies together. That, I can handle. :-)

  20. Thanks for outlining the way you make your decisions regarding media. I appreciate the way you plan to avoid double standards with your kids by not watching what you tell them to watch – I may try that myself when we have kids!

    I was wondering what you would do – sort of like in the situation where your friends where watching something you weren’t comfortable with – but in regards to music in a work-setting. I know at my job (in a very small office) we have a satellite radio and the first person who gets there just chooses a station and we all hear it all day. Some of its just plain bad, but I don’t care enough to say anytihng, but I would imagine that some of Top 40 type music (even the radio-versions) are a little offensive. I suppose you would just ask if everyone was cool if you found another station?

    Jenna Reply:

    One bonus of being LDS and being open about it is that people tend to go out of their way to be respectful, which is awesome. I talk to people on gchat who will apologize for swearing when they do. I was friendly with a few boys in high school who were in gangs, and they would often apologize for swearing around me! Vandalizing on the weekends and apologizing to the Mormon girl during the week :)

    If it were me I would cite my religious beliefs with my complaint, but I think it would also be possible to talk about this with a manager in terms of performance. If you’re having trouble concentrating due to offensive music that affects your output, something that any good manager is going to be concerned about and want to fix.

  21. I think it makes a lot of sense to have personal standards for the sort of media that you consume: I have my own list of books/movies I won’t consume because I think they’re pernicious.

    I’m not sure about the idea that one should only consume wholesome, uplifting media though. Most of life is neither wholesome or uplifting, and I think that media serves an important function in allowing people to explore their feelings about the horrible things that happen to them or others. Covering topics like childhood sexual abuse, suicide, concentration camps, and basic human cruelty is really important, both because it makes people who are suffering feel less alone, and because it gives you a better understanding of the world around you (the basic function of media): and you can’t do this well without being graphic.

    Also, sometimes things are not uplifting and there is no happy ending. The man dies, estranged from his children and never understanding what he did wrong; someone does something terrible and irrevocable, which may be forgiven but can never be made better. Consuming media which explores these hard truths (like King Lear or Sophocles) helps to process them and could potentially make consumers better people.

    Sticking strictly to uplifting media is denying the fact that the world is cruel and often unfair. I think it’s much more important to consume media that has integrity, that is honest, and that doesn’t reduce anything to easy-to-digest stereotypes. For me, most Disney movies are much more dangerous and pernicious than a sexual movie like Brokeback Mountain or a violent one like Mystic River, both of which have graphic content but explore the consequences of the behavior they portray in a thoughtful and honest way.

    Chelsea Reply:

    I don’t even have to comment, because this comment said the exact same thing I would have, and even uses the same types of films that I would use for examples.
    I think we should definitely abstain from media that tears down our beliefs or tempts us in serious ways, but I don’t think we should always shy away from films and books that make us “uncomfortable”. Sometimes, discomfort is precisely what I need to break beyond my barriers and learn to understand what someone else is going through.

    Cécy Reply:

    I’d have to agree with that. Disney and any fairy tales are sweet stories but they make you believe that everything is happily ever after and takes no work.

    I couldn’t imagine not watching some good documentaries either. Like “Night and Fog” (Nuit et brouillard) talking about the death camp. Was it uplifting? Certainly not, but it made me want to make sure we don’t repeat our past and act against racism of any sort.

    *Michelle Reply:

    I think its an interesting and valid point of view. But since its movies and book choices and as described above, not an educational book burning, I don’t think she is depriving herself of something she “should” see/know/understand. And as she pointed out, she isn’t saying she’ll only watch happy go lucky fluff, shes choosing not to watch things that deter from her religious beliefs.

    That being said, I do not share her religious views or her media restrictions but OMG I have seen a few scenes in documentaries that I cannot unsee and should have stuck to just my history book b/c I didn’t learn anything new, I just have a terrible image in my head that sticks with me and I wish it didnt.

    Oh – Disney’s “Princess and the Frog” just might change your tune as this reluctant princess is all about the hard work! Its a really great movie. :)

    Cécy Reply:

    I’m not saying she is (depriving herself). I very much respect the idea behind the media standards, but I feel that personally it’s not something I could follow.

    I’m trying to remember, but I think Jenna has been to a concentration camp site in Poland during one of her visits. (I may be wrong). And that’s what the documentary I mentioned talks about, you see a lot of what the document shows there. So those images are probably even stronger.

    I do understand the fact that images stick to your brain, although sometimes I wonder if a book doesn’t do the same because you can see things through your imagination. When it comes to education there are ways to learn that I’m sure stick to this ethic.

    Good to know for the Princess and the Frog. All those stories were inspired by books anyway. I think my issue with fairy tales in general is that they make you think the hard work is to get married. I think the hard work is to stay married, it may be more subtle work, but it’s there and few mainstream media stories mention that.

    Sophia Reply:

    I echo Chelsea and Cecy. I’ve been thinking about how to express this idea, and I think Grace did it eloquently.

    Sarah for Real Reply:

    I disagree with this comment somewhat. There is a difference in what we watch for entertainment and what we watch for education. I have no problem watching historical, educational shows that are less than “uplifting.” I’m not a religious person but I still don’t see the value in watching things like Brokeback Mountain. As far as I’m concerned, that was just a movie about adultery. How is that supposed to improve my life or provide entertainment? For me, I choose to watch things for entertainment that make me happy and things for education, like The Pacific which are known to be extremely accurate, though violent.

    Katy Reply:

    You said it well. I’ll remember that – there is a difference between watching/listening for education and for entertainment. It’s sometimes hard to define, but I think many of us know it when we see it – is this to inform or this gratitious display of sex, language, or violence just an instrument of storytelling?

    Grace Reply:

    I think choosing what media to watch has to be a very personal decision, since only you know what your standards and weaknesses are. That said, I would argue that Brokeback Mountain has a lot of value precisely because it is about adultery (spoilers below). It very clearly shows the consequences of what happens when you engage in forbidden sex: the two men are never able to find happiness (one ends up dead as a result, the other depressed and alone, filled with regrets), and their wives are equally damaged, disappointed and embittered because their husbands failed them in fundamental ways. While you might be able to read this in a book (Adultery: Why It’s a Bad Idea), I think seeing it in the form of a story is both much more powerful and convincing (that’s why Jesus teaches in parables, right?)

    Also, I don’t think there is much of a difference between entertainment and education. Everything teaches you something: that is why you should care about the media you consume in the first place. And even documentaries strive to be entertaining, by using interesting visuals, music, structuring the story in a particular way (for that matter, even people giving sermons usually try to be entertaining so that you can pay attention). The best media does both equally well.

    Katy Reply:

    “Sticking strictly to uplifting media is denying the fact that the world is cruel and often unfair.”

    Not that I’m perfect at sticking to only uplifting media or anything (we can learn much about history and what we DON’T want to repeat from movies that aren’t terribly ‘uplighting’), but BECAUSE the world is already cruel and unfair enough, that is why I try my best to choose that which uplifts. Uplifting media doesn’t necessarily imply ficitious or unrealistic, because in stark contrast to all the hate and ugly of the world, there is also beauty and happiness. (I sound like a sappy commerical…)

    Sometimes good does win, sometimes the guy/girl finds love, and sometimes everything really does work out in the end. We need these messages just as much as we occasionally need reality checks. It’s just as a destructive idea to deny ourselves the reminder that there can be happy endings as it is to portray that there always will be.

    Grace Reply:

    Of course I agree with you that uplifting stories are great too! One of my all-time favorite movies is Babe (about the little sheep pig).

    I was just arguing that watching only uplifting media is a bad idea: I think you need both.

    Jenna Reply:

    I thought of an example that might help illustrate things better. A few weeks ago I ordered The Color Purple through Netflix. Though it is fiction, from what I read on Wikipedia it sounded like it would help me better understand what African American women living during the 1930s went through.

    I think I only made it through like 20 minutes. Not because the sexual content in it was graphic or a “turn on” in any way, but because it left me feeling so dark and hopeless inside. I felt angry and frustrated for these women, and I thought that the 20 minutes I spent watching was sufficient enough to let me know that being an African American during that time was really hard for a good percentage of women. If I want to learn more about it, I’ll seek out a non-fiction book about it.

    I think it’s about finding a balance. I don’t want to be ignorant by any means, but The Color Purple made me feel really awful inside, and I don’t think that’s a necessary thing to go through. It’s why I didn’t watch The Passion of The Christ, even though a lot of LDS members did. I didn’t feel like watchings something very graphic would help me feel a deeper connection to Jesus Christ. Reading the New Testament and some non-fiction works by intelligent and spiritual men seemed to me like it would be much more effective.

    Meg Reply:

    I hope you do seek out literature that will shed light on how Black women were treated not only in the 30′s but ever since they were brought to America. Though I love The Color Purple (book and movie) it should not be the end all be all for you or anyone else wanting to explore how Black people have impacted and were impacted by America.

    Let me know if you want any suggestions for materials.

  22. I’m so glad you posted this, Jenna. I have similar media standards for myself, and I thought you explained everything well. I’m definitely not perfect in this area, but, like everything, it’s a work in progress.

  23. May I ask why the church is against masturbation?
    Personally, I think masturbation is a positive thing for one’s physical,emotional and even spiritual health.
    Learning to love and please oneself is a wonderful thing
    and puts us in touch with ourselves.
    I am surprised that gods of any sort or religion would prohibit such a thing.

    Jackie Reply:

    I’m Catholic, but I have a feeling that LDS’s and Catholics have some similar “guidelines”

    I wrote this in response to someone earlier “For Catholics – masturbation is off limits because we believe that while our sexual nature isn’t bad in any way (as some people think Catholics believe) we believe it is entirely intrinsic to our married lives… I found this on a website “The act of self-gratification in masturbation, if it is practised by a person on his/her own, lacks the full meaning of human sexuality which is directed towards a loving relationship.”
    This kind of even goes on to prohibit full oral sex – for the ‘use’ of foreplay it can be okay, but not to the point of climax… that’s reserved for intercourse.”

    For us, the sexual act between and husband and wife are a true sign of LOVE

    Jenna Reply:

    I answered a similar question above.

  24. I don’t understand the idea of accepting violence over sex. Sex is a loving, feel-good expression of ones self. Violence is never good. Ever. If watching something with sexual content turns you on you don’t have to do anything about it. Just like I assume you would never act violently after watching something with violence. How about self control? I work for a theatre company that produces Shakespeare and we have school performances. It always amazes me when the Christian schools ask about content and I recommend the comedy with sexual content to them over the tragedy with violence and they say they’d rather expose the students to violence over sex. It’s such a backwards view to me.

    Cécy Reply:

    It’s something that always surprised me in the American cutlure in general, sex seems to be taboo but violence is not. While I understand with the strong standards of the church to limit the sex based on lust only, as you said is it also something sacred and beautiful. So does it depends how it’s represented?

    Jessica Reply:

    But that’s just it; sex is sacred, so why is so rampantly displayed in movies, music, plays, etc. It’s between two people and God, and that’s it. Why should anyone else be invited to that party?? Personally I’d rather not attend unless it’s my own party.

    As for violence; I don’t think it’s great either, but I do think in general we are less likely to have feelings of deep hatred because of it or want to lash out on other people. Not that it’s not possible, just less likely. I think sex is such an innate thing for humans and is so personal and everyone has experienced those feelings strongly and repeatedly, so I think it makes us more vulnerable when we are exposed to sexual situations. I don’t like watching either, but when I watch violence, it’s more of an out of body experience (even if I sympathize with the characters).

    Jackie Reply:

    I don’t agree that ” Sex is a loving, feel-good expression of ones self.” in the media.

    If you, like me, believe that sex is meant only for married couples, than I’d say 90% of sex in movies isn’t between married couples. And even then, a lot of sexuality on movies is demeaning towards women. At what point are viewing sex in a movie and pornography any different… a movie can make it’s point without going as far as it often does.

    Katy Reply:

    That’s the difficult part of media that so graphically portrays sexuality – - violence is never good. I wish there was less violence in the world and in the media because we don’t need it, but in contrast to sexualtiy, violence is never good. We can teach our children “don’t do that – don’t hurt people like that.” Period. End of discussion.

    With sexual portrayls, it’s more delicate. We want to teach our children that sex is good, natural, and a wonderful expression of love (between husband and wife as our church teaches!), but it’s not an aspect of life you should take lightly. It’s good, but it’s the timing and attitude about it that is important – in contrast with violence which doesn’t fall under those conditions. Sex and whom we have sex with is something we need to take more seriously, so media portrayls that sends the exact opposite message makes it harder to understand these things ourselves and use them to instruct and guide our children.

    Jenna Reply:

    Excellent comment Katy.

    Kat22 Reply:

    I wonder about this too, especially as we (in NZ) sometimes have ratings for things from the USA and I find the difference in how they treat sex and violence very odd.
    For sex, how it is represented has a lot to do with whether I feel OK watching it, but violence always makes me uncomfortable. Obviously different people respond differently to the media and how the rating system works and how you personally feel about sex and violence and not the same, but I was very interested that your feelings mirrored our perspective of the US system. You said sex was more of a trigger for you. Do you mean that watching sexual content (may) make you feel sexual (which as I understand from the post you want to reserve for your husband) but violence doesn’t make you feel violent? Do you think watching violence has other effects upon your state of mind? I’m interested as for me (as a non-religious person) the effects violence have on people seem worse than feeling sexual (especially as you can either not act on that or find your husband!) and much worse than the thoughts you might have about sex after watching Friends.

    I’m also very interested in your thoughts on the comments below about the sex and violence in the bible and your views on fantasy novels.

    Cécy Reply:

    Thank you for your explanation Katy, it explains things better.
    I’m still amused sometimes though when you hear expressions like “Public Display of Affection”, nothing of that sort exists in the French language as far as I know. People are not shocked when couples kiss in the street or at least don’t make a big deal out of it.
    I also still find silly the fact that in movies or shows, when a couple is showed after a sex seen the girl is wearing a bra even when she is under that blankets. Again not something I grew up seeing on the films and shows in my country. But anyhow that’s getting off the subject.

    I’m sure I’ll be thinking about books and movie standards more when I have kids. I that as my brother and I grew up and read everthing we could put our hands on we read stories that were more graphic than one should read at the age we were. I’d probably be more careful when it comes to letting my (future) kids have access to it. But personally what I took from it was how beautiful love making can be when both partners respect each other…

    Jenna Reply:

    I hope I didn’t try to portray that I think watching something really bloody and violent would be awesome, but if they show a man touching a woman’s breast it would be out instantly. It’s not that sex is out but violence is okay, it’s that my standard just isn’t quite as high for violence. So if they shoot someone or stab him with a sword, I’m okay with that. I’m just not okay with any type of contact between couples that should be left in the bedroom.

    I also think the problem with sexual content is that it’s possible for me to sin, alone. Sexual content often leads to masturbation, which is a no-no for Church members. Violence though has to be done to someone else, and so I think it is a lot easier to sin based on viewing sexual content than violent.

  25. PS I was confused about choosing violence over sex too.
    Personally I would much rather watch the love between a man and woman than any violence or abuse against another human being-to me violence is the evil here.

    By the way thank you for allowing all of us to ask questions and state our thoughts.Open conversation betweeen intelligent adults (even of differing views) allows all of us to see the others’ points of view and for all of us (you and I included) to be less judging of our fellow man/woman!

  26. Thanks for this post!!

    I go through “phases” of really wanting to try to censor what I watch, but then after a while I start saying to myself “I’m an adult, I can watch things without it affecting me – but I know that’s not true.

    Jackie Reply:

    Oh, and I also wanted to say, I’m a new reader, and I’m Catholic, but I really do love learning about your faith – not only that, but I think, from what I’ve read, that you have a very good way of putting across your beliefs in a non-judgemental, but not “dumbed down” way either… like this post, some people would write it as a judgement of other people who don’t set high standards like yourself… but you’ve written it well to actually inspire… just wanted to tell you that, and say keep it up!

    Jenna Reply:

    Thanks Jackie! I’ve come a long way ofter the past year, and wrote quite a few posts where I didn’t come across so well. I’m glad to hear that I’m improving with time!

  27. I understand the whole concept based on whether it makes you feel comfortable or not. I think that’s a good standard although I don’t personally aim for it. I think it’s great that you are able to set standards together.

    I have a few questions, does it also apply to other forms or art? For example nude painting, photography, etc? There are beautiful paintings from the past that could be considered sexual, is that something you try to stay away from, or is it like clothing: “the intent matter more thant the amount of flesh one can see”?

    My other question is about books like Harry Potter or other Fantasy stories. I think it was the Catholic Church that went against it. But I’m curious, is that something considered bad in your church, is it considered to have wicked purpose because it talks about magic?
    Personally I never understood why the Catholic Church made such a big deal out of it. It’s a story out of the imagination, there is no sex in it, there is violence yes, because it’s like in many stories the battle between good and evil. But I mean it’s just a story, I’m not going to join a wizarding community (if that even exists) because I read it. I was curious about your opinion on that. Especially since Stephenie Meyer writes about Werewold and Vampires which I don’t see much of a difference with wizards.

    Jenna Reply:

    Yes, I think it’s certainly about intent. I wouldn’t shy away from viewing the David in Florence.

    The LDS Church hasn’t ever said anything about fantasy or other similar literature. I also don’t see anything wrong with the Harry Potter series, as Harry tried to use his powers to go good. Isn’t that teaching a good lesson? If it was a book about him using magic to hurt people and triumphing in the end, maybe I would have issues with it :)

  28. While I like to avoid blatant violence and pointless sexual objectification of men and women, there are many books, movies, and art exhibitions that were definitely “R rated” or above, and some were shocking and upsetting. But to me the point of art is to allow us to experience other lives besides our own. I think art and media and books have a tremendous capacity to allow us to empathize with one another.

    What comes to my mind are the shocking photographs of beaten and abused slaves that a photographer took and distributed. Most in the North, and some in the South, tried to tell themselves slavery was “benevolent”. The grotesque use and abuse of humans bodies, spread out before them in photographic evidence, was there for all the world to see. Same thing with the news coverage of police men setting dogs upon peaceful protests of the Civil Rights era, of hosing down children with fire hoses. This was all painful, and violent, and certainly not something that little children should be privy to. But it was definitely something teenagers and adults needed to see. I suppose that segues into my disagreement with the standard that children and adults should have the same standards for media consumption. I truly do believe that some things are not appropriate for children, but are appropriate for older children and adults who have more mental and emotional maturity to understand the subject. I’m thinking, for example, that a 7 year old should probably not watch Schindler’s List, but a teenager would probably benefit from it.

    Jenna Reply:

    I do agree with this, and we certainly will still tell P that he needs to not watch… I don’t now, some things that we watch that I can’t think of off of the top of my head. I guess I’m thinking that these double standards arise when you watch things that you would prefer your kids NEVER watch, because you’re a bit ashamed of it yourself (from an LDS viewpoint). This is where things become hypocritical. I always want to be able to say “We’re not comfortable having you watch that, but you can when you turn 11″.

    Sophia Reply:

    That makes total sense, making a distinction between “don’t ever watch that” and “you can watch it when you’re older and more mature”.

  29. This might be tangential, but what about all the sex and violence in the Bible? There is talk of how to punish a woman for being raped, much talk about taking concubines and making children with them, of fathers offering their daughters to angry crowds to rape them instead of the angels, of the many wives men had, of God choosing sides in various battles and destroying entire groups of people, of incest, of slavery, etc. etc.

    In this case, doesn’t the very Bible itself require a discerning eye when it comes to sex and violence? I’ve always been interested in the way this was dealt with. Surely there are some Bible stories that children are not taught until they are older, because of the content. And, if so, this speaks to an acknowledgment of the need for different standards for different ages. Noah’s arc may be well and sweet to teach a 5 year old, but trying to explain to them why a father would hand over his virgin daughters to be raped by a crowd… well, frankly, to me that can never be rationally explained, but at least from a sexual standpoint it’s probably agreed upon that children would not be taught such stories at 5 years old, right?

    Jenna Reply:

    Something members frequently say is “The Book of Mormon would be rated R if it were made into an accurate movie!” Probably true. I even have a hard time with the crazy choice of Job, etc.

    I referenced this above, but one thing that’s different for me is the style that things are written in. These stories don’t seem like they are written to titillate, more to inform future generations of lessons learned. Again it goes back to intent.

    Also remember that the Church members often use their favorite disclaimer “The Bible is true as far as it is translated correctly” :) There are some things that I admit we kind of gloss over instead of focusing on, which I think in some cases can be a good thing.

    Sophia Reply:

    I would definitely agree that the stories are not meant to titillate. I’ve just always wondered how families deal with teaching their children the more “rough” or “bawdy” parts of the Bible. I remember my father talking about being absolutely traumatized at the age of 5 when, after learning about the Rapture, he came home before anyone else and thought Jesus had come and left him because he was wicked. He curled up on the floor and cried himself into hysterics, which is where his mother found him. I remember thinking what an awful thing for a child to go through, and wondering at how his father- a preacher- could have taught some of the things he taught at such a young age. So this has left a lasting impression on me as to how parents go about teaching Bible stories and Bible principles.

  30. i’m not religious (in fact, i’m an atheist), but in the past 6 months (definitely correlated with having my babe) i’ve changed my own media standards.

    i used to watch a TON of crime shows — csi, svu, etc — but i’ve found they disturb me way too much now. makes me worry about harper, my family, myself. and i don’t like the imagery that gets put in my head. i really feel a lot more peaceful since i’ve cut it all (mostly) out. (i still have a weakness for ice t on svu…)

    i’ve also stopped looking at all those celeb gossip blogs. was making me compare my own bod to theirs and i hated how it made me feel. plus, why the heck do we care so much about these people? just made me feel lame and pathetic for obsessing over it all.

    anywho! good for you (us) for figuring out what triggers the thoughts we don’t like and doing something about it.

    Katy Reply:

    That’s what it’s all about. It’s hard to ‘unsee’ things and after awhile we are either desensitized to it (not good) or we let it bring us down (not good either).

    Do we need to only watch things with smiley bears and rainbows? No, but the world has enough misery and pain – we don’t need to dwell in it any more than we have to!

    Jenna Reply:

    TH has a really hard time with those “dark” type shows that focus mainly on grim things as well. He doesn’t like me watching them when he’s around, if I do. Like I said above, right now I just can’t get enough of the TV series Smallville!

    Sophia Reply:

    We don’t watch T.V. or own one, but my friend is obsessed with CSI, and anytime I go to her house and happen to overhear/watch some of it, it ruins me for DAYS. I’m such a worrywart and have the most ridiculous fears, and then CSI goes and freaks me out about everything. I absolutely cannot handle horror movies, crime movies, any kind of movie to do with serial killers, stalkers, etc. I know myself too well to put myself through that, haha.

    schmei Reply:

    I used to live with some nuns (no, I’m not a nun. Long story) and one of my housemates, who was not only a nun but was the order’s director of Peace and Justice Outreach, LOVED CSI.

    I walked through the living room during one of the CSI episodes she was watching, and in the minute it took me to cross the room I saw at least 6 people gunned down in a shower of bullets. Disturbed the heck out of me. I couldn’t figure out how she could watch that stuff. She said it was an “escape”… from what?

  31. Jenna, this is a great post. I remember once seeing Maya Angelou speak at grad school and she said something like “surround yourself with those things that are uplifting and bring you joy and a sense of strength. If there’s anything in your life, including people, that drain joy, love, and strength from your world, refuse to have them be a part of your life.”

    I’m reminded of this quote by what you’ve said about the LDS teachings.

    My first stance in trying to live this advice was hard. My ex’s best friend was a drinker and was cheating on his wife. I told my ex I refused to hang out with his friend anymore (unless we stepped up and addressed the truth) because I felt like being silent on the topic and continuing to hang out with him was somehow condoning both behaviors. The cheating part was the hardest, I had a friendship with his wife and knew that she knew about the infidelity. I felt that if we couldn’t make a stand on what we believed (the ex and I), what else did we have?

    Anyway, not to be a downer! I’m glad I took the stance. It’s hard, but each of us needs boundaries. I still try very hard to fill my home and my life with things that bring me joy, strength, and make me happy :)

    Sophia Reply:

    I love Maya Angelou, what a great experience to get to hear her speak!

  32. Thanks for this post Jenna, well written. I am just dying of laughter for your poor mother! That would be so humiliating, haha.

    I love that the Church encourages its members to use their brains and make conscious decisions about what we participate in, not just with media. I’ve heard people talk about how they think Mormons are brainwashed, but I think subjecting yourself to any and all media is getting brainwashed a heck of a lot more than a religion that wants you to make your own choices and own up to them. It is a hard battle to make a decision not to read or watch or listen to something because it contradicts your beliefs, but I think the blessings outweigh the momentary embarrassment or discomfort.

    I also wanted to address the comment thread above that talks about exposing yourself to hard things even though they may not be “uplifting” per se. I use the Church’s guidelines and go from there, but I agree that it’s important to learn about other cultures and people and not hide yourself under a rock. I think the Church leaders are all for this. But it still has to fit within allowing the Spirit to be present and not cross the line as far as what is appropriate. I think it is possible to let the audience know what is going on and the hardships the characters are going through without being overly graphic or uber-sexual. I think you can get your point across with some taste and and restraint intact.

    I agree that it is hardest to stick with your standards when you are around other LDS members who use this guideline differently. I’ve decided to just speak up for myself and set the boundaries early because they are entitled to their own interpretation and judgement and that’s ok. For me, when the church nixed the R-rated thing and included any and all movies with questionable content (to use your judgement), I didn’t go out and say, yes! Now I can watch all those r-rated movies! Instead, I thought, if it’s rated-R, it’s rated that way for a reason and I’m still not going to watch it; I’m simply going to be more careful about PG-13 and any other media I expose myself to. It doesn’t mean my neighbor has to do the same, but I am in charge of my own mind and body and that’s what works for me.

    Great Sunday post, again, Jenna!

    Jenna Reply:

    Agreed. I haven’t seen Schindler’s List but I wouldn’t be opposed, even though it is rather dark and sad. I guess you might say my standards are a bit different when talking about historical media versus fictional. I want to know what has happened/is happening in the world and be educated about it.

  33. Hi there, I’m s pretty new reader and just thought I would de-lurk. This post was fascinating and very informative for me, as were the comments listed below. It’s SO different from the way I think and I behave in my life, so I am really enjoying getting the opportunity to understand these different ways of thinking…please keep it up! I’m really impressed.

  34. Thanks for sharing a little bit about your own standards, and I think it’s great that you and your husband are working towards goals together. I read a comment above, referencing your husband having you “think” about something, but I’m sure you ask him to consider things too.

    I used to be a lot like you – and I definitely have a respect for people who have those same standards, but my husband has changed the way I look at the world. We make a lot of our decisions on movies, music, etc. on what feels right between us and God, and less about what other people say is “appropriate”. Some times it is not the popular choice among my other LDS friends, but what influences one person doesn’t do the same thing to every one. I don’t know if that makes sense. It just seems like a lot of influence is put on what LDS people can’t/don’t do – when a lot of it is personal choice, hopefully based on personal revelation. I am happy that you are making an effort to do what is right for your family – THAT is truly the important thing. :)

  35. Good for you! I think it takes a lot of conviction to not only set these standards for yourself, but to also stick to it and write about it. Personally, I don’t watch a lot of TV, but last year told my husband I was so sick of the crime dramas and medical dramas and complicated relationship shows. We too stopped watching Grey’s when it seemed they were condoning adultery. We couldn’t support that. One of my favorites is Glee; I like that it can make me feel better and not worse.

    And, while we aren’t Mormon I think it’s more common than you might think for couples to discuss what they watch. My husband would never tolerate Real Housewives shows being on. (Not that I would want to watch it.) And, I say that since it in no way brings anything positive into your life.

    Thanks for sharing.

  36. I really enjoyed this post. It gave me a lot to think about! I’m LDS, too–but I always find it interesting to hear how other people apply the standards of the Church to their own lives. I have one couple friend who have agreed to not watch PG-13 OR R movies–and I’ve had a lot of respect for them for somehow coming up with a way to non-self-righteously decline to include themselves in activities (even with other LDS couples) that involve watching them.

    While I’m not quite that rigid in my movie-watching, I really have a lot of respect for people who can set standards and then stick to them–but all the while not judging or holding others to the same standard. Too many times I think I don’t set hard and fast rules (I won’t watch this TV show at all, I won’t watch PG-13 movies) with the excuse of saying I just go by the Spirit in the moment. (for example: Some episodes of Friends are okay, some are not… I’ll just watch the ones that are okay.) But really, I think you’ve got the right idea of just throwing some things out entirely.

    Why put yourself in a situation to have to keep re-choosing time and time again?

    But like I said, this is something I really need to work on. Thanks for getting me thinking!

  37. I’ve read your blog for a while, and this is my first comment. I just wanted to say thanks for this post. Although I am not LDS, I have very similar media standards, and I really appreciate how clearly you expressed the reasoning behind your choices. I admire the choices that you’ve made and the way that you and your husband make decisions about these things together. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so openly with us. :)

  38. Very interesting post, Jenna, and I like the way you wrote it; you stated your beliefs in a balanced way that didn’t seem preachy.

    I agree and disagree with you. I think there are a lot of inappropriate songs/movies/TV shows out there, especially for children, but I feel like the “R” rating standard is too arbitrary. Schindler’s List, which came out when I was in elementary school, was rated R and I watched it when I was 12. I was disturbed, but educated. Similarly, I remember going with my family to watch “My Left Foot,” also rated R, which is about an incredibly talented Irish writer who only has use of his left foot to type his literature. My husband and I went on our first date to see “Hotel Rwanda” (yeah, we’re real romantics) and while that’s rated PG-13, we have made it a tradition on our dating anniversary to see completely unromantic/inappropriate movies and most of them are rated R. (We’ve seen “Brokeback Mountain,” “An Education,” “Pan’s Labryinth,” etc.) These were all really good films and we learned from them and talked about them for days.

    I do agree with you that there comes a point where it makes sense to use your best judgement and just turn things off that make you uncomfortable. As I become old and crotchet-y, I find myself flipping off the radio when I hear songs like “I Bet the Neighbors Know my Name,” not necessarily because it’s about S-E-X but because it’s about a guy basically objectifying women. If I have a son, I don’t want him to talk like that and if I have a daughter, I don’t want her to think that’s how men should treat her. And even though all my friends like True Blood, I watched the first episode on DVD with my husband and we both were really weirded out by the freaky sex in it.

    That said, I heart “The Tudors” (hello, yummy young King Henry), which is full of gratuitous sex scenes (although they’re not “freaky”), and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which has crazy (albeit network TV-appropriate) violence, is my nightly lullaby. My husband and I are also huge fans of “The Wire,” which has plenty of violence, some sex and a whole lot of disturbing scenes in it. But it’s real. The show made me cry a lot but it always affected me — and made me think about the social injustices in our inner cities and the human toll of the drug war. It’s a really intelligent TV series and I sort of feel bad that you won’t be able to watch it!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    Sophia Reply:

    Ah, “Pan’s Labyrinth”. I loved that movie!

  39. I’ve spent a lot of time intentionally exposing myself to to most shocking, graphic, and disturbing content that can be found on the Internet. Why? Because I wondered what would happen to me if I did. And really, I haven’t burst into flames… or murdered children… or cheated on my husband. I certainly wouldn’t say I have pure thoughts all the time, but I live with the best intentions.

    That being said, having subjected myself to that experiment and observed the results (NOTE: Lest you think I consider myself a picture of health or a saint, I do, and have for years suffered from depression and anxiety) I find it only fair that I should experiment with the opposite. I agree with the quote one commenter has posted from Maya Angelou. That’s a philosophy I’ve heard echoed from many people I would count as very sage, religious inclinations aside.

    It’s also a lifestyle that I have had a very hard time adhering to… because petty gossip, schadenfreude, and drama can be oh-so-addictive. (I had a heavy Something Awful forums habit for about a year.)

    So! Guess I’ll give it a shot and see what happens. It certainly can’t be bad, right? And if not for God, for me! (And for Justin, since less Internet drama means more Wife Time.)

    The end!

  40. This post was real timely for me – I’ve noticed I’ve been quite slack in my television viewing and even some reading material. We have some Encore movie stations and while it’s been fun to watch favorite movies that we don’t own, they also feature plenty of R-rated movies. Sometimes we’ll watch and not realize, sometimes we’ll watch because it’s something we were really interested in back when it was in theaters but never saw. With those, we’ll play the ‘we’ll wait until something bad comes up, then turn it’ game, but I’m finding that’s a terrible idea.

    When before hearing F words (the swear word that bothers me the most) were like pouring poison in my ears, with too much exposure (albiet small) I find it gets less “painful”. Not a good thing. I’ve been talking about canceling those stations for awhile, but I think it would mean losing out on a lot of great programming so I think that’s been what’s held us back thus far. We need to make a decision!

    All this time of reading/commenting, I can’t get that poem/saying by Alexander Pope out of my head:

    Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
    As to be hated needs but to be seen;
    Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
    We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

    [An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope]

  41. My family members rent movies from something like Cleanreels or something like that… they’re movies that are edited so they are more clean and better reflect LDS guidelines. Do you guys do that sort of thing? I know my sister- and brother-in-law are big fans of it, since they still get to see a movie they like, just made a lot more “mo-propriate”

    Katy Reply:

    We participated several years ago in something called CleanFlicks – an edited movies video store. It was closed down recently I think though because of some kind of lawsuit from moviemakers. Didn’t quite understand it, but I always wondered what their beef was: they put out the ‘unrated’ more raunchy versions of their movies once in awhile – why not offer a cleaner version with less swearing/sex (probably the things easiest to ‘clean up’). They’d make a killing on people like us that want to see a movie for it’s story, but just don’t think 23 f-words are terribly neccessary.

    I’ve seen Saving Private Ryan on TV (and have even seen it in portions in it’s original R rating) and I can say that I definately get the point and the appreciation of the story without all the extreme swearing and extreme violence (obviously some violence will be present in a war movie!)

    JessicaMayLords Reply:

    That’s what it was called! CleanFlicks!!! Thanks! My sister- and brother-in-law rented something from then just a few weeks ago, I think, so maybe it’s back?? I don’t know. Most thing I’d choose to see as they were released in theatres, but movies like Gladiator are just WAY too violent for me.

  42. Soooooo off topic – but these black and white pictures of T1 remind me of the opening scenes in Pleasantville. It feels like a commentary on modern day motherhood, just plopping baby in front of the TV all day and all night. Very funny and ironic, coming from Jenna! LOL.

  43. I can’t do violence anymore. I would much rather see sex than violence. I think it is because I’m on the sexual assault response team — and I see a lot of violence’s reprocussions. I can’t watch it in media.

    Sex… well I have recently gotten into Grey’s Anatomy, but for the most part I don’t watch too many shows that feature it. No R rated movies for us either. It is just easier to draw a line and stick with it.

  44. I really enjoyed reading this post.

    Background: I have no organized religion, but I am a children’s librarian and a soon-to-be mom. I have done a lot of work and research in media and children.

    Please be cautious about giving the MPAA the power to decide the media you consume (as in R rated movies). The MPAA is an independent organization closely meshed with the production of movies, while also rating them. Their ratings directly affect how well a movie will do in the box office.

    The MPAA board is made up of 12 (politically) hand picked secret members who rate movies. Only 8 are required to contribute to a particular movie’s rating.

    It may be something you want to look into, Jenna, because in essence you’re allowing eight people to (completely inconsistently) decide what movies you watch. Eight people who are not your church elders and are not necessarily Godly and do not necessarily share your values.

    Personally, I watched Dr. Suess’ The Cat in the Hat the other day when I was sick. I found it to be absolutely disgusting, and I’m happy to watch Brokeback Mountain and Fight Club. Disgusting for the sexual innuendos in what is supposed to be a children’s movie. Even Kids in Mind didn’t really report on it accurately, I feel. It’s rated PG, but I bet if you watched it you’d be just as grossed out. Just because it is PG does not make it uplifting or appropriate.

    From Kids in Mind:
    “SEX/NUDITY 3 – A man and a woman kiss on the cheek. The Cat reacts with interest when he sees a woman’s photograph (it unfolds like a centerfold and he makes noises like “hamana-hamana-hamana”). The Cat admires a young woman dancing in a short top and skirt (she has a bare abdomen and cleavage). The Cat dresses up like a female entertainer and he wears melon halves to cover his buttocks and a bikini top. The Cat begins to describe “where he came from”: “When a mommy and a daddy cat…” The Cat says to a garden hoe “you dirty ho,” then he acts like he is going to lick it. The Cat bends over and we see bare buttocks (they’re prosthetic). A woman wears a short skirt and a tight top that reveal a bare lower thigh and cleavage.”

    Anyway. That’s my anti-MPAA message for the day. :)

    Katy Reply:

    That’s why our church leaders started urguing us to not just avoid R-rated movies, but to also take great care with even PG and PG13. A few years ago, you’d only hear F-bombs in R, but they get them in there now in the PG13 quite regularly. Another good reason to not blindly follow the R-rating rule “oh, it’s not R, so it must be plenty decent for me to watch”. Not the case! And I have heard about those doing the rating systems and how they work with the movie producers. They might want to change something from R to PG13 to bring in more viewers (like possibly us more conservative viewers!), but they still ride the line as close as they can to include as much as they can.

    Jenna Reply:

    You’re so right, and although I didn’t now the nitty gritty details as well as you do, I knew that the MPAA wasn’t the most trustworthy source.

    The reason I’ve chosen to stick with my no R-rated movie rule is that I don’t trust myself to truly be objective in what I choose. It would be too hard for me to find little way to justify my choices “Oh the message is good even if it does have that one scene that makes me feel really uncomfortable” etc.

    Maybe I would reconsider my position if I felt like there was a movie that would truly transform me into a person that is 10 times as good as I am now, but I’m not sure I believe that I couldn’t use other types of education to become that better person, you know? Schindler’s List is an often cited one, and I admit that I might change my mind and watch it someday, but I’m not sure I need to watch it to really feel how awful the Holocaust was. I’ve been to Auschwitz, seen the rooms where they lived and died… I’m not sure anything could ever be more haunting than that.

    Mrs. Kitten Reply:


    I 100% agree with your MPAA comment! Their ratings are very arbitrary. I think following a highly-regarded family-centered rating website would be way more consistent than following MPAA ratings. But, Jenna, I can see how having a hard and fast rule makes the decision-making process easier.

  45. Thanks for this post! It’s awesome that you’ve made such strong links between the standards of the Church and what you yourself are doing. Way to share.

  46. This has been such a great discussion! I get so tired of people arguing and lashing out against one another when their moral opinions differ, as osten seems to happen on boards like these. I just wanted to thank everyone who posted, especially those who don’t share the same beliefs as Jenna, for being so respectful in their comments.

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