Thursday, November 13, 2008

Doin' it Mormon Style

Yesterday on Feminist Mormon Housewives, an author posted a plea of sorts regarding her rather unfulfilling sex life and if sex is really all that important, anyway.


This is another one of those taboo subjects for various, perhaps more "strict" members of the church. Eric told me that one of his mission presidents confided that he and his wife, when on their honeymoon, tried having sex with their garments on. Since then, I've ran into one or two other comments regarding LDS couples attempting this and all I can do is, first, laugh like a hyena and second, wonder what the hell is wrong with our culture that we feel we can't even take garments off for sex.

I mean, y'all go swimming right?

Then there's the idea of lingerie. At one point even I caught myself saying this (I've changed quite a bit in the past five years), and I've had other friends say it as well:

"I don't see the point of lingerie, clothes are just going to come off anyway."


Sexuality in LDS culture is an interesting thing. One of my best friends back in the day told me a guy - not a friend, not related, not even a friend of a friend - in their ward, upon learning she and her fiance were moving their wedding date up, quipped Can't wait to get into each other's pants, huh?

Creepy, right? Totally uncalled for, right?

But there's a sliver of truth in there, isn't there? Our culture, our God, demands celibacy of its unmarried - in our particular religion, we feel that demand more acutely than perhaps in other Christian denominations. French kissing is discouraged because of its inherent sensuality. Being alone with your girl or guy is discouraged because temptations abound. Spencer W. Kimball even said,

“What is miscalled the 'soul kiss' is an abomination and stirs passions to the eventual loss of virtue. Even if timely courtship justifies the kiss it should be a clean, decent, sexless one like the kiss between mother and son, or father and daughter." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.281)

For context, he's talking about casual kisses "given out like pretzels," but I imagine he'd extend this counsel to any young couple - like he said "even if timely courtship justifies the kiss." No disrespect to President Kimball, but are you kidding me?

You get two people together who have a tension between them so thick you can cut through it, and this isn't going to be easy. Yes, you can fight the temptations by going on group dates, never being alone, kissing each other on the cheek, but holy hell! This is not only not easy, it's almost unrealistic. I don't care what era of time we're talking about - this was probably just as difficult in the 1850's, 1950's or today, and we've more couples marrying today for love and not because Dad wants to marry his daughters off and get rid of a couple cows in the process.

And so you have couples getting married ASAP.

Some of these couples know (as in, not faith: know) they are meant for each other. Beyond that, like for Eric and I, there's a commitment unmatched and unquestioned. We knew it from the beginning - and we weren't supposed to ever be alone or...anything?

I'm going to refrain from some of my more radical rationalizations, but yes we did marry in the temple and no we didn't have to lie to our stake president or bishop to do it. We knew our boundaries, we knew where we wanted to go, so we went about things according to what would keep us on that path.

The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is meant for single adults as much as it is meant for the youth. But, when you find "the one" you should be alone with him/her. You should kiss - and no, not like you kiss your mom or dad. That's a little creepy.

Can it get sketchy and tricky? Yeah. Should you flirt with the line? Well, fun as it is, probably not, at least not if you want to marry in the temple.

But what of after marriage? What of those couples who pretty much keep it monotonous and boring and - shudder - scheduled. The couples who keep their garments on. The couple who just doesn't ever try anything new.

That's dangerous. From what I've noticed, LDS tend to react to the staunch (sorry, righteous or not, those're pretty staunch) standards in one of two ways:

They remain staunch.
They go insane from all that pent up frustration.

Get two of these people together and you've got some serious issues. Get two of these people together, and you've probably one reason why pornography is a problem for not just everyone, but for those in our church.

You can only stifle people so much. Sex is not bad. Yes, it is sacred and a divine power (at least in the procreation department) and should be treated as such but that doesn't mean it's...mechanical, you know?

It's passion, it's love, it's security, it's safety, it's connection.

And yes, there are couples, mostly brides, I've learned about who are so indoctrinated into the idea that sex is bad they can't bring themselves to finally let go on the night of their wedding.

Does this sound wrong to anyone else? I hope so.

And yeah, I said bad. No, that's not necessarily the vocabulary our leaders use, but the translation is nevertheless easy enough to make.

Get out the damn lingerie, get some massage oil, etc. Realize these things aren't bad. Realize it's okay to do some things - really. If something weirds you out, then by all means don't do it, but at least give it consideration. Sometimes we think things are weird because we think they're wrong.

Well, not everything is wrong. "Normal" does not always mean wrong. Normal, in the context of a good marriage, can mean some pretty cool things that we might think is icky. It's not. I promise.

Victoria's Secret is your friend.

I mean, there's being uncomfortable with doing something and then there's just not doing it because we think it'll be weird. Get over that. Talk with your friends to realize people are doing stuff, talk with your husband/wife (even your boyfriend/girlfriend), and understand that while we may be LDS and have higher standards, we are still human and God gave us some pretty cool things. Get to know each other. Know yourself and what you like. Experiment a bit. TALK to each other.

As far as the single crowd goes, much as people might need reminders of how to avoid digging themselves into a hole of temptation they can't navigate themselves out of, they need to also know it's amazing and, most of all, okay. There needs to be a respect, but not an abhorrence. We don't need to be prudes to be righteous.

If we think otherwise, our marriages are doomed to become robotic and emotionless. Sure, you may never get a divorce and you may actually love your partner, but if there's no passion...then you may as well be married to your mom or dad.


Amanda said...

"French kissing is discouraged because of its inherent sensuality."

Seriously?? Wow. That one I never heard. That's just weird.

Katie said...

Hear, hear! Great post, Lisa! You've hit on one of my biggest personal pet-peeves!!

My husband and I were long-distance for most of our engagement. We made a point of spending the last month of our engagement talking about sex, so that it wouldn't be weird for us when we had it. We talked about what we expected (yes, also in terms of mechanics), what we wanted to do, etc. We made lists of things we thought would be fun. We read the book The Act of Marriage together and discussed it in depth. We didn't want to have weirdness about it after we got married. And, by and large, it worked.

As a couple, we try to talk about sex frequently with friends who are engaged and going to be married soon. Not in a sex-talk kinda way, but in a "you really need to hear these words and ideas spoken in nonchalant, not weird, normal way if you are going to do the deed."

We make sure we use the proper terms for things. As my toddler son has started naming his body parts, we make sure that he learns the word "penis" along with "eye" and "nose". Its another body part, it has a name, and it has a purpose. Lets de-mystify the whole thing and life will be a lot easier.

One of the things that bothers me most is when a (typically LDS) couple will be so scared to talk about the s-word before marriage that they won't discuss birth control. Oftentimes, these are the same folks that say they would like to wait a year or two before having kids. I then ask, "What form of birth control are you planning on using?" (since some - like the pill - require that you have used it for a few months to be effective). This question is often met with a blush, stumble, and some mumblings. Then, about 2 months after the wedding, guess who announces they are pregnant? Guess who didn't feel comfortable talking about sex? I have had this exact scenario happen with TWO of my friends.

This should not be!!!

As one of my high school teachers used to say, "If you can't talk about it, you shouldn't be doing it."

Sex is good, people!! Its MEANT to be a good, wholesome thing! Its right there in the Family Proclamation under Wholesome Recreational Activity!!!

Laura said...

I've never heard of anyone having sex in their garments. Although if other men wear their garments out until the point that they're practically translucent (like my husband) then I guess it wouldn't be

Lisa said...

Amanda: Really? Yeah. I think it's more often referred to as the "soul" kiss in the church (haha, i know).

The FTSOY pamphlet says "Do not participate in passionate kissing"


You can also find some discussion on it in this Ensign article under "Temptations During Dating and Courtship"

Here's a quote, though:
“What is miscalled the soul kiss is an abomination and stirs passion that results in the eventual loss of virtue. Even if timely courtship justifies a kiss, it should be a clean, decent, sexless one. … If the soul kiss with its passion were eliminated from dating, there would be an immediate upswing in chastity and honor, with fewer illegitimate babies, fewer unwed mothers, fewer forced marriages, and fewer unhappy souls. With the absence of the soul kiss, necking would be greatly reduced. Its younger sister, petting, would be totally eliminated. Both are abominations of their own right and kind.” (In Conference Report, Sydney Australia Area Conference, 29 Feb. 1976, p. 55.)

I know they're speaking more to the youth here, but as we all know, they're speaking to any unwed person.

I'll tell you, there's more passion in chastity sometimes, more temptation, more tension. I'm absolutely not condoning anything here, but...the tension can be killer. Not a passionate kiss.

Katie: "if you can't talk about it, you shouldn't be doing it."


And that scenario doesn't surprise me in the least...and yeah, my sons' favorite word is "penis" lol. We just go with it, don't make a big deal. Eric and I talked about sex beforehand too. I think a lot of members fear doing this because they're convinced by everything that just talking could lead to sex, but we're adults...right?

Sometimes I think we start to believe we have to be told how to do everything and that we're so carnal and so inherently sinful that we can't help ourselves.

Well. We can.

Laura: Yeah. That would be tricky, wouldn't it? But Eric swears by the story, and I just heard more stories at Feminist Mormon Housewives so....

Yeah I don't get it either.

Natalie said...

Thank you for this post! I think you brought up a lot of good points.

As far as people being really weird about their garments.... the stake president who interviewed my mom before she got married said that they ALWAYS kept their garments on. Like, they even showered with one half on at a time.


But I have a real issue with people in our church trying to do all they can to *control* and *stifle* sexuality. I am a super firm believer that its best to not have sex before marriage. My reasons for believing so go beyond religion. But refraining is not the same as squashing. And for heaven's sake, it is so taboo that most people never learn self-control! This is my biggest issue.

For example, at BYU, males aren't allowed in the women's dorm after 10PM. They don't want them to have the chance for sex. Got it. But if the only reason you aren't breaking the law of chastity is because you literally never have a chance to, are you really learning the principle?

I heard a story about a group of Priesthood holders being given a scenario. You're driving home from a church activity, alone in your car, and its pouring rain. You see the RS or YW President walking home, in the rain, by herself. Do you stop to pick her up?

AND A TON OF THE MEN SAID NO!!! They thought it would be inappropriate to be alone with another married woman, and spoke about "avoiding the appearance of evil" and staying away from temptation. Okay, if you cannot be alone in the car with a faithful member of the opposite sex without wanting to jump her bones, YOU'VE GOT OTHER ISSUES TO DEAL WITH.

You should be able to be alone and close with your partner before marriage without having sex. You should understand the eternal principles behind the law of chastity enough that the temptation cannot overcome you. Otherwise, what does obedience mean to you? And if you fail and mess up, you should learn the pain and beauty of repentance, and then the law of chastity will really mean something to you.

My husband and I had every opportunity in the world to have sex before marriage... but we didn't. And that's because we chose not to.

That means a lot more to me than being forced or tricked into righteousness.

Whew. That was long-winded. :)

And dare I say it.... "squingee". Hahahahaha.

Lisa said...

Nat: rofl

"Okay, if you cannot be alone in the car with a faithful member of the opposite sex without wanting to jump her bones, YOU'VE GOT OTHER ISSUES TO DEAL WITH."

Amen, sistah!
Be long winded anytime you like here.

squingee, haha

Katie said...

The temple matron in the Washington DC tmeple (her name was Sister Temple as a matter of fact - isn't that cute?), where I took out my endowments, regularly says in her meeting with sisters that garments should be taken off for showering, sex, and swimming, and that we should "use our brains" about other decisions. She also said that it was fine to wear underwear under your garments when you have your period or nursing pads when you were nursing.

You'd be amazed at the number of women in the room whose jaws dropped at these rules (as in, they knew people who wore garments during sex and thought that was normal).

Her husband was in the army and she felt no compunction with telling it like it is. She recounted stories of women who bathed with one leg out of the bathtub with the garment on it as "ridiculous".

Amanda said...

Seriously, reading these comments made me laugh for the first time today. I can't believe there are people out there that shower wearing garments and some of the other silliness written about. I think Natalie is right - if the only reason you don't have sex is because you never had the opportunity, it isn't really like you've been righteous, is it? I think it's rules like these, the absolute squashing of human sexuality, that leads to people going crazy when they get to college. I know of people who were raised in super-strict households, and they really went insane when they got to college - sex, drugs, drinking, smoking, you name it. Whereas in a moderate household - strict but not completely controlling, where the children are allowed to grow up and learn - the newly grown up kids are a lot more temporate in their college dealings.

And I've got to admit, the term "soul kiss" cracked me up. I didn't grow up LDS, and the first person who kissed me (when I was 14) automatically frenched me. To me, that was "normal." Every person I ever kissed did it that way. I didn't realize there was a taboo out there on that. I guess by the time I joined the church, I was already married with three kids, though, so I probably didn't hear about that much. Then again, I taught in the YW's program for about 1.5 years and that never came up in a lesson...

Katie said...

First off, another saying that I have heard: Virtue is not the absense of temptation.


Okay, if you cannot be alone in the car with a faithful member of the opposite sex without wanting to jump her bones, YOU'VE GOT OTHER ISSUES TO DEAL WITH.

::as Katie spits out her Diet Coke and laughs hysterically::

I don't think I want those who didn't raise their hands to pick me up!

Actual conversation, after a married Bishopric member comes to tell me that they decided in Ward Council to go ahead with something in my calling that makes it a thousand times easier:

Me: Oh, thank you so much! You are my new best friend in the world.

Bishopric member: (Silence, then)Other than your husband, you mean.

Me: (Baffled look on my face)

BM: I'm your best friend other than your husband.

Me: (Too confounded to respond appropriately). Uh... thanks again.

Sorry I have posted so much, I couldn't resist.

Lisa said...

Don't apologize! haha

dig the saying ("virtue is not the absence of temptation") Nice.

The whole bathing with one foot in and whatever just seems like more work than it's worth.

You mean you were just joking about him being your best friend? *laugh* Man. Too many people take things far too seriously. There's a severe lack of sarcasm in our culture, methinks.

Anonymous said...

I may not have the same perspective here, because religion never played a role in anything I did or didn't do.

But it's already been proven that humans are inherently sexual beings. It's not merely for procreation as it is for some species on this planet. I think that people need to realize that.

I do understand the reason for waiting. My mother and father waited, even though he had already been married twice and had a daughter so was obviously not 'virtuous'.

But if you describe the act of sex, of lovemaking, as a beautiful and wonderous thing, instead of bad and scary, then it would make the tension between two people who are already truly, madly, deeply in love with each other a GOOD tension, instead of something shunned and wrong.

I couldn't imagine going into a relationship, be it a courtship, an engagement, or a marriage, with that kind of... I don't know... foreboding??

ακιεгεγ said...

This is hilarious, especially considering that this, "Yes, you can fight the temptations by going on group dates, never being alone, kissing each other on the cheek" is very, very similar to what my non-religious mother said to me when I started dating. She's always been an advocate of waiting for marriage.


Communication so important. Without it, sex is either mechanical or animalistic. With it, sex can become something spiritual that bonds two people even more closely together.

Joseph said...

Ok this is all way too hilariously entertaining. You are all cracking me up.
I broke my leg two-and-a-half weeks before my wedding. My dad and my brother are driving me to the temple on my wedding day and when we stop to get gas I say "umm...Dad? Uh, while you're in there do you think you could get me some condoms?" He looks a little surprised so I explain that with my leg I haven't been able to do any shopping or anything and he says "sure, I guess." Then when he got back out into the car he tried to probe a little bit about whether or not I was nervous. I laughed and said "Dad I am n-o-t not worried." Then he sort of tried to warn me about being too aggressive or eager. I laughed and said "Dad, my leg is broken. I think it's going to be pretty much up to her." I think he was kind of surprised that I'd thought things through that far.