Saturday, April 25, 2009

Deseret Drops Twilight

Hat tip to Times and Seasons for being far more proactive than I.

Article found at the Salt Lake Tribune

I know. It's Twlight and many of us are tired of hearing about it. I suspect many who read still have a soft spot for those books, perhaps it is a guilty pleasure. That's what they are for me. But this isn't a critique of the book or even praise.

Deseret Book has decided to take the series off their shelves.

Those interested are able to special order the books, sure, but no longer can one (read: youth) walk into one of these stores and pick it up. I do wonder how many members actually purchased the books there. I bought mine at Barnes and Noble. Many of my friends visited Walmart or Target. Granted, the nearest DB is an hour away but even when I lived nearby one I didn't hear of many who visited to buy it.

I don't know.

The reasons for the drop are vague at best.

"Like any retailer, our purpose is to offer products that are embraced and expected by our customers. When we find products that are met with mixed review, we typically move them to special order status," Leigh Dethman, Deseret Book spokeswoman said.

Mixed review?

I know a friend of mine initially denounced the relationship between the two main characters as "inappropriate." Yet she continued to eat up the rest of the series. She's not the only one, but some have stood by their review and refused to read the rest of the series or have blacked out the more sensual passages to keep their virgin daughter's thoughts more virginal. If they ever were in the first place.

We black stuff out. We don't talk about it, acknowledge it, discuss it. We black it out. Take it off the shelves.

I'll agree: this probably isn't the book for your thirteen year old. While there is no explicit sex, sex is dripping from the prose.

I mean, let's face it. Twilight is soft-core erotica for LDS women. I'll admit I loved it. And why not? We need a little more sexuality in our lives.

Those faithful, strong, zealous members of the Church who love this book tickle me. These people who have standards so thick as to follow the one time counsel to dating youth to only engage in "sexless" kisses, these BYU students and alumni love this book.

Because the author is Mormon. Because it promotes abstinence. Because it is "clean." At least that's what they say.

I heartily disagree. I think it avoided premarital sex. Found a loophole. Much like in Stephenie Meyer's other book, The Host, the issue of fornication was completely circumvented. Not decried. The main character, Bella, wanted Edward. He wanted her, too. But he was afraid with his superhuman strength and extreme lust for her blood, he'd end up killing her.

Some examples of the text. Some of my favorites ;D

His hand curved around my elbow, moving slowly down my arm, across my ribs and over my waist, tracing along my hip and down my leg, around my knee. He paused there, his hand curling around my calf. He pulled my leg up suddenly, hitching it around his hip.

I stopped breathing. This wasn't the kind of thing he usually allowed. Despite his cold hands, I felt suddenly warm. His lips moved in the hollow at the base of my throat.

"No to bring on the ire prematurely," he whispered, "but do you mind telling me what it is about this bed that you object to?"

Before I could answer, before I could even concentrate enough to make sense of his words, he rolled to the side, pulling me on top of him. He held my face in his hands, angling it up so that his mouth could reach my throat. My breathing was too loud -- it was almost embarrassing, but I couldn't care quite enough to be ashamed...

Slowly this time, he rolled till he hovered over me. He held himself carefully so that I felt none of his weight, but I could feel the cool marble of his body press against mine...

Cold as ice, his tongue lightly traced the shape of my lips. (Eclipse, pgs 186-187)

And this:

His hands were in my hair, his lips moving softly -- but very seriously -- against mine, before I realized what he was saying. What he was doing.

There wasn't much time to act. If I waited too long, I wouldn't be able to remember why I needed to stop him. Already, I couldn't breathe right. My hands were gripping his arm, pulling myself tighter to him, my mouth glued to his and answering every unspoken question his asked.

I tried to clear my head, to find a way to speak.

He rolled gently, pressing me into the cool grass. (Eclipse, pg 618)

There is sex in this book. And while Edward objects because he claims he's old-fashioned (he is 100+ years old), this is not activity with which the Standards of Youth would approve.

Nevermind he is constantly in her room. Alone with her in other places.

We drink this up. I read this when I was still marginally faithful, afraid to turn the page - would they have sex? should I read this? oh but I wanted to. Finally, a member of the church found her courage to write like this. It was refreshing. I'd stopped writing long ago because I didn't think I could write anything worthy of the faith, and I refused to write something akin to The Work and the Glory.

This series was refreshing for me. Like a revelation.

No, Meyer's novels don't decry premarital sex because the abstinence is far too erotic. The want for it is far too strong. And perhaps that's the problem for Deseret Books.

But really, a little heavy breathing is good for us. We need to acknowledge sex and celebrate it. Stop shunning it so much. I'd like to know the prevalence of women who, like in one story I heard, couldn't bring herself to consummate her marriage with her husband because to her, sex was bad. Dirty. We need more stories like Twilight to help say it's not. More women in the Church need to know it's not. Married and single alike. Old and young.

But it seems DB, owned by the Church, can't afford to keep it on the shelves. It's too PG-13. After all, I'm positive President Kimball would've disapproved. Our standards for dating are entirely too strict and I believe lend to more sexual "sins" than not. Or lead to unhappy sex lives within marriage. Is it sad or telling to anyone else that married LDS women are eating this up?

In the end, I don't think Deseret's problem lies with the adult readership but perhaps in the Church's (and it's ultra-strict members) decrying the sexual content because so many of our young women read this over and over again.

And instead of asking ourselves why, we take it off the official LDS bookstore shelf.

EDIT: After some thought, I had a few other questions, and I think the answers to them will surprise many if there's any bit of honesty involved:

1) Would so many LDS women consume this series if it were written by a Pentecostal/Catholic/Muslim/Agnostic Stephenie Meyer?

2) If she wasn't LDS, wouldn't most of us decry these books as inappropriate? Yeah. Probably not many of you.

But many of our faithful-and-true friends would for the very reasons I posted above. We allow it because, well, she's Mormon. We make excuses for her. Because she's one of us. She's a successful one of us. An LDS mommy. A working LDS mommy.

A psychologist's playground, this is.

And I think that leads us again to my original question: what does this say about our views on sexuality? Our egocentrism? Our culture? Our religion? Our propensity to hypocrisy (gasp! i know)?

I mean, let's be honest.

For a listing of the comments, both rational and unbelievable (for both sides), see the Comment Page for the article listed at the top.


Kate said...

I would have the opposite question - what was it doing on the selves in the first place, given that books like Harry Potter are not? I recall when the Fablehaven series came out, and DB was selling it as a "kosher Harry Potter". Why? Because it was written by a Mormon author. I have issues with a "church" bookstore proclaiming that all things written by Mormons keep with Church standards. Twilight did not. There is no way I want my 13 year old sister-in-law reading the books. But she is, in part (I suspect) because they were seemingly "acceptable romances" by the church.

I agree that alot of Church members are hungry for good romances. I actually wonder if Twilight's success is largely attributable to the willingness of the Mormon women to finally read a romance novel. I'll have you know that I have read Harlequin novels that were less steamy than Twilight. I didn't really care for the series, but that is partially because I have read lots of romance novels, and have several authors that I find better. Cleaner, too. And - guess what? - they are NON-MORMONS.


T.J. Shelby said...

I have no comment on this. As an avid comic book junkie, or "comic snob" as I readily admit to, I refuse to read a book about sissy vampires.

Lisa said...

Kate: Ah, good question, though I would say Twilight made it onto the shelves in the first place because an active member of the church (and BYU alumni) wrote it.

Makes me wonder if the BYU bookstore/library still has it. I'll have to ask my SIL.

I do have to disagree as to some of the youth reading these books due to the implied blessing of its content. I can see where you're coming from on that, and perhaps it's true for the younger teens, but from speaking with many other women (young and older) I think it's because Meyer flirts with the line rather courageously. Even she was afraid to tell her own parents about her book, if I remember correctly.

Thanks for the comment :)

TJ: lol

Anonymous said...

So, I should embrace the heavy breathing you just sent me spiriling into from your examples?!?! Damn, where was I when I first read those parts LOL!

Total kidding aside, I agree with you ;) That's why I thought the movie was lame: no NONsex! The books were much better at expressing the turmoil those two devils were having with each other.

Kate said...

I think you are probably right, Lisa, in terms of most people reading the books b/c they flirt with the line of premarital sex so much. Thinking about it, I do recall having a friend read them b/c her mom was saying that they were "sensual, but not sexual." Course, this friend was married and 28, but still.

In my SIL's case, though, I'm certain she's only allowed to read the book because they were written by a Mormon. I can't see my MIL reading the books or being ok with Darci reading them if she knew what was in them.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the nearest church bookstore is like 2 hours away from me, so I'm never there anyway. I had no clue these books were being sold there.

Amanda said...

I've only read the first two books, but I've got to admit, I thought the only impediment to sex or heavy kissing was because Edward didn't want to lose control and bite into her. Nothing to do with old fashioned or anything else. I guess I don't know what he says the next two books - and likely won't ever find out because #2 was such crap I am totally turned off the series - but it would seem weird to me if he suddenly changed directions and claimed it was because he was old fashioned.

Lisa said...

Maren: I had a friend who was incensed that Meyer would tease her readers so lol.

I thought she did well enough. Any graphic sex scenes may have ruined it. Maybe. ;)

Kate: My stepmom (non-LDS) was trying really, really hard to get my sister to read. "Hell, I'll go and buy Playgirl for you. Just read something!"

She's fourteen, almost fifteen, and I wasn't sure if "Twilight" would be *squirm* appropriate reading for her. That said, she's a good kid with a really blatant example of what happens when people run out and have sex (my stepsister has been pregnant 3x by 3 daddies. It's a long story) Finally I did tell her about it but made sure to tell her mom about the sensual content. Because I'd want to know, even if I did approve.

She inhaled the entire series no problem.

I just hope it will whet her appetite and perhaps help her to trust me when I say "this is a good book!"

Like right now I'm trying to get her to read Harry Potter. Sigh.

Amanda: The second book was horrific. Hands down. Eclipse was good, Breaking Dawn a different sort of horrific. Disappointing. Convenient.

Action filled, but very convenient, and that was sad.

Twilight and Eclipse were good though. For junk food stories, that is.

I mean, I can't be too critical. She got me writing fiction again, and for that I'm forever thankful.

Karen said...

I remember reading something about Twilight being "squeaky clean" because there was no drinking, smoking, swearing, or premarital sex. All I could think was that the story I'm writing has all those things and yet at heart it's MUCH cleaner than Twilight!

I don't love those books (especially Breaking Dawn... that was just bad storytelling on top of everything else), but I am kind of impressed that Meyer achieved PG rated erotica. I think she may have created a new genre.

Lisa said...

Just thought of something else:

How many LDS women would've been scrambling to read these books if Stephenie Meyer, the Protestant/Catholic/Athiest/who-the-hell-knows had written it?

I'll admit one of the things I considered was 'Hey, here's an LDS woman writing YA fiction (my genre) and she's on the NYT Best Seller's list"

So it was a consideration at the time.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I still haven't read these books, but they're on my list. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and my mom claims they're about as addictive as HP. So even though I doubt that, I'm still curious. After all, I was a late comer to HP.

As far as "sensual" or "sexual" or whatever content in Deseret literature is concerned, I wonder how Solomon's Song made it into the quad. Where are the Deseret censors when we need them? :D

Hypatia said...

I've actually come across an opposite attitude. Instead of loving the books despite their sensual bits, I've come across members who have been far more critical of Stephanie Meier BECAUSE she is LDS.

A faithful family member told me that, "I think I would have enjoyed Stephanie Meier's books a lot more if she weren't LDS."
I feel it must suck to be an LDS author writing fiction, because you have a world full of judgment from some Mormons if you don't write "appropriate" enough material, or you have a world full of judgement from other Mormons who would say that you're stuff is just lame, cheesy Kitch ready be lapped up by old RS ladies who wear the mumus and do crafts at enrichment every week.
See the dilemma every LDS author might face?

In a way, I think it would've been better if Stephanie Meier kept her identity as a Mormon hidden; just think of all the judgment she could've avoided.

I've also wondered, let's say Edward and Bella GOT married from the get go but the scenes dripping with sexual tension were the same. Do you think members would no longer have any problem with it? After all, good healthy ideas about sex are promoted within marriages in the Church, right? :)

Lisa said...

FD: HA! I know. I often wonder why they made into the quad in the first place. I know it's to give the impression of homogeny with the rest of Christian scripture canon, but eh.

My husband likes to quote from Solomon often, just for fun ;)

Hypatia: Huh, that IS interesting.

Meyer seems to really not mind the world knowing she's LDS. It's part of her being a member missionary, I imagine. I have googled around and found a lot of people really hate the LDS/anti-feminist themes found within it (whether true or not). Like I said, psychologist's playground.

And somehow I don't think it would matter if the quasi-erotic material would've waited until after marriage :) At least in my experience such things always remain "sacred." And it was written for YA.

But excellent point. If I worked faster I might test that theory lol

It is sad. I tell jokes sometimes to my married friends (benign enough, I swear!) and they get really quiet. It's stupid.

Matt said...

I think there are plenty of Mormons (I knew of a few when I lived in Utah, at least) who dislike Twilight for a different reason--not because they're "inappropriate", but because they're simply bad books whose popularity reflects poorly on the LDS community. (My apologies for offending all of you Twilight fans.)

In other words, since Meyer is LDS, I'm more vocal in my criticism because the books' popularity says to the world: "This is the best that the Mormons have to offer: clumsily-written escapism whose popularity is confined to tween girls and their mothers." As a member of the LDS community, I find it a little embarrassing that Stephanie Meyer is currently the premier artistic ambassador of Mormonism. I suspect that people felt the same way about the Osmonds a few decades ago. (Or perhaps they still do.)

Again, I apologize for any offense caused by my issues with Twilight. I'm not trying to insult anyone who likes the books; really, I'm not. But I think that when the most widespread examples of LDS "art" are The Singles Ward and Church Ball, the LDS community can afford to be a little more critical of itself.

Lisa said...

Matt: No offense at all.

I openly like the books, but that doesn't mean I think they're well-written or worth literary acclaim. I think you've a valid point; however, the criticism of her as an LDS author is unavoidable, and it's sad. I would also endeavor to say perhaps a no-win situation.

It does show how desperate we are for some acclaim, someone to point to and say "She's one of us!" We do it with the Osmonds, Orson S. Card, Mitt Romney, etc.

She's also getting extra attention because a Mormon wrote about vampires (I still don't get why people are so amazed at this), quasi-erotic scenes, and while she didn't go the way of premarital sex, she didn't exactly follow "For The Strength of Youth."

It was daring.

And it's been popular, which says a lot. It's like we're breathing a breath of fresh air.

So it's not about her talents necessarily (though she did do something right. her fan base isn't entirely LDS), but what she wrote about as a member.

We can't get mad because "that's the best we can do?!" It's too big a burden. Hell, I feel it and I'm not even close to publication. It's frightening enough to write a book - to have to represent 13 million people and a doctrine which even the leadership occasionally admits to being unsure about...well, damn. That's a lot of responsibility.

I think the popularity among the membership speaks as well to what we're willing to accept as "good literature." Our standard bar is, as you noted, fairly low. It would be nice to raise that a bit, but I’m not willing to take the challenge. I don’t know many who are.

But she did something right. Hopefully it'll propel her readers to bigger and better things.

Karen said...

Lisa, I'd be interested in hearing more about your writing (fiction or non?). It's an aspiration of mine too.

Lisa said...

Karen: yay!

Since beginning the blog and dealing with other issues, my writing has been predominately non-fiction. (I'll admit, if I were more patient and willing, I could make my posts here more intelligent)

I do have a YA book that has been nagging at me for (I kid you not) almost fifteen years. At the moment I'm writing up some character sketches as part procrastination and part necessity :)

I did recently have one story published online (also available in a hard copy anthology). I originally wrote it for a Writer's Digest short-short competition; alas, it didn't win - but Writer's Bump picked it up.

It's called "Trapped" and you can find it hereI also have some articles up at Associated Content. Some of them I'm rather proud of, but I know I could do a lot better (interview more, stylistically, etc). For an online forum that doesn't pay much, however, I would consider my writing fairly appropriate ;)

Some of my better examples:
The Other F Word,

In Defense of Harry PotterAnd
Thirteen Haunted Places to Stay in Northern CaliforniaI'm learning.

I'm also a Preferred Author on Writing.Com. Pretty good place. Much of what is on my portfolio is restricted (at times highly restricted) but I believe there are a few things available to anyone.

I'd be interested to hear of anything you've written too, so drop me an email (at NOM is fine, but my email address is available in my blogger profile) Also interested in what you think should you read anything of mine.

Thanks for asking!

Lisa said...

Ack, the formatting didn't work so well (looks scrunched). I apologize. The links should work, however.

JustMe said...

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. My mother allowed me to read whatever I wanted, but then again, books were a lot tamer 40 years ago. I wasn’t raised LDS, but my mother always told me “nice girls don’t”. She just never bothered to tell me why they don’t.

As LDS, we counsel our youth to wait until marriage to have sex. As far as I know, they aren’t counseled about enjoying sex after marriage. I had “the talk” with my daughters when they were young, and I told them “sex is the most fun you will ever have in your life, after you’re married”.

I think we need to worry less about the erotica in books, and more about the intimate connections between husbands and wives.

Ten years ago I was a RS teacher in a small ward in Wyoming. I taught a lesson on marriage relationships, and I started it off by writing “sexuality” on the board in huge letters. That certainly captured everyone’s attention. I think it was a great lesson, and judging from the comments I got from men the following week, a lot of men in the ward agreed with me. I did dance around the subject of sex very carefully, but I counseled the sisters to flirt with their husbands and to remember why they married them in the first place. Needless to say, I was released from my calling within a couple of weeks.

My husband gave our son this advice when he was a teenager, “There is nothing wrong with sex, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Sex is one of the greatest gifts Heavenly Father has given us, and it is Satan who wants you to think it is something to be ashamed of. Sex between a husband and wife is one of our greatest blessings”.

I bought my copy of Twilight at the church bookstore in St. George, while on vacation there 2 years ago. My 16-year-old daughter begged me to read it, so how could I refuse?

The scene in Gone With The Wind where Scarlett wakes up singing after Rhett has carried her up the stairs is one of the most erotic scenes in literature, because the passion is left to our own minds. I was 12 when I realized that.

Kengo Biddles said...

Honestly, for me, what they do is no different than what some engaged couples do as they get closer to their wedding -- I don't see anything wrong with showing the interest beforehand, because, FRANKLY, sex is a part of marriage.

How many times do we hear of members of the church freaking out about sex being suddenly "allowed".

I would have no problem with my teen-aged daughters reading the first 2 books of twilight. The 3rd and 4th ones I'd want to discuss with them and point out that the only reason it's okay for this kind of emotion to be shown is because they're engaged and nearly married (or married in the case of Breaking Dawn's prelude-to-sex and post-sex scenes, which I think were very tastefully done).

And JustMe, you've hit it right on the head.

As for Twilight being an embarrassment, etc. etc. I hear the same thing from my wife about Card.

I think we need to stop being so pharisaical and realize that LDS people are human and flawed, too. We need to rejoice in the flaws that let us know just how much we need the Atonement.

(climbing off soapbox)

Sorry to commandeer your blog, Lisa.

Lisa said...

Kengo: No problem at all

You and JustMe both hit it on the head.

Thanks so much :D

Scott said...

There have been at least a few comments along the lines of "I wouldn't want my [young teenage female relation] reading these books"...

Are we bad parents for letting our 11-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter read them?

We've tried to be open about sex in our family for multiple reasons. We want them to understand that we are comfortable talking about it, because we want them to feel comfortable coming to us when the inevitable questions or concerns crop up. We also don't want to foster the attitude (noted in other comments) that sex is "dirty" or "shameful"--an attitude that, if carried beyond the alter, will negatively impact their marriages.

So before they could even talk our kids knew the proper names for their private bits. Over time they have also learned (or are still learning, in some cases) that there are some things we don't discuss outside of family--not because they are embarrassing or shameful, but simply because they are personal.

Our 11- and 12-year-old kids have both had versions of "the talk" and understand the mechanics of sex, and hopefully they also understand, at least to some extent, the emotions and passions that are involved. They also (hopefully) understand that we believe that certain things are only appropriate after marriage.

It's true that the reason that Edward and Bella wait until after they're married might have more to do with concern for Bella's physical fragility than for any real sense of morality, but that's a subtlety that our kids aren't likely to pick up on. What they're going to see is a couple of teenagers in love who refrain from having sex until after they're married, and since even the sex itself is only implied (by the description of its aftermath), we didn't think there was any reason not to let the kids read the books.

They both enjoyed them. Our son (the 11-year-old) read the entire series through twice in a month. I'm fairly certain (given his aversion to on-screen kisses in movies, etc.) that he sees it as a good vampire story, and that his mind glosses over the romance. Our daughter probably sees it somewhat differently, but even so her testimony, modesty and sense of virtue remain intact.

(All that said, we have insisted that our 8-year-old son wait a few years before he pick up the books...) :)

Annette said...

I'm a serious fan of the series - sometimes mediocre writing aside. I loved how Stephanie took me into a different world and let me escape. And regardless of the conventional wisdom (those that say the popularity comes from frustrated middle-aged women), I'm in a GREAT relationship where my romantic needs are being met. It's not "erotica" for me at all!

I did however object to the weird violence of the sex, regardless of the reason. I would "censor" accordingly if I had young kids who wanted to read the books. That's how it should be.

The Church seems to be getting back to Mosaic law (in this matter and many others). How many steps should we take? Not this step, seems.

I don't believe that God wants us to be sexless to be pure. I don't even buy that it's not ok to THINK about sex in a loving relationship.

In addition, I don't buy that the hottest selling YA fiction to come along since Harry Potter isn't selling and it's a mere business decision - if that were true, it would be pulled off of LOTS of shelves - but it's not.

At the end of the day, it's a privately held (by the Church) bookstore and can do anything it wants (obviously), and that's how it should be...but the message and "step counting" it insinuates rubs me the wrong way.

jodie chabaj said...

Hi I am a proud LDS(mormon)woman who thinks that twilight is unsuitable reading, especially as it conflicts with the standards set out by church leaders in 'For the Stength of the Youth' booklett.
Lisa, you stated that the leadership of the church occasionally admit to being unsure of the doctrine.I have been a member of the church for 16 years and can boldly say the leaders have NEVER been 'unsure' of the doctrine