The Erotic in LDS Lit
Part VI: Theric replies to your questions and comments (a)


If you fear, fear not. If you fear not, fear.
---J. Reuben Clark


So replying to all the wise and witty things you all have shared over the past six weeks really won't be possible in just one post. So this is (a) and we'll keeps going through the (a)(b)(c)s until everything I want to touch on is. That means, if you keep leaving scintillating comments, this series will last forever! What fun!

To revisit any prior portion of this series, click here then scroll down. (And don't miss everyone's comments --- they're every bit as good as anything I had to say.)

Does LDS culture create negative feelings towards sex among premarried people?
    Even though Recession Cone argues it's not so, the fact that Tyler and Foxy and Schmett all feel that LDS culture and Church teachings in some way (even if unintentionally) create negative feelings towards sexual relationships among the unmarried suggests there is something going on here. I can't remember much about my in-church chastity lessons as an adolescent other than that I dreaded them. I don't even precisely remember why I dreaded them. Just that I did and that that feeling seemed general among my classmates. So I don't really feel qualified to comment on this issue. I would consider asking some young adults in my ward, but that might be a little creepy. Anyone with further intelligence on this topic is invited to spill.

Celia: There's a difference between an anatomy text book description of sex (fine for educational purposes) and a novel type description. Novels are meant to suck you in and make you feel a part of the story. Even if it is a truthful and honest and moral account of sexual interaction between husband and wife, if it is explicit and goes into detail that is meant to suck the reader in and vicariously experience those same feelings, it is not appropriate for a reader (in my opinion) and is obscene porn.
    But, then, not all manuals are created equal either. Consider The Act of Marriage v. The Joy of Sex. One is practical, the other recreational. I have no problem with either, but I'm sure many would disagree with me on the basis you recommend, viz. the latter is titillating --- I would imagine unavoidably so for healthy adults. Then there is The Joy of Sex's companion volume that's been out of print for almost 20 years. The original volume was recipes for one man and one woman while the latter offered advice for inviting others into the bedroom or visiting group sex retreats. Less commendable. (And, I'm guessing, out of print because we're now in the AIDS era.)

    I'm not sure it's reasonable to okay any writing with sex if we refuse to allow the reader to feel that sex in the reading; I'm just not sure it's possible. Which isn't to say the notion isn't important to consider (haven't I been doing so for two months?), but I don't know that there is a clear line in the sand between manual and fiction. Every manual tells stories. Every story has facts.

    I suppose this brings us back to intention, as you were talking about earlier (and as did I in parts I and II)? Intention is so often key. We will be judged by the thoughts of our hearts, etc.

Celia:While I don't necessarily disagree your scenario of "moral pornography" with the couple taping themselves for their own watching, I believe that could be used inappropriately, even by that couple. What if the wife's out of town and the husband watches it and masturbates? Does the masturbation then become a moral act because the arousal came from watching him and his wife? I don't believe so.

Chosha: Lastly, and it's a smidge off-topic, but I'd like to respectfully register my disagreement with part of celia's comment. I think it's entirely appropriate for a husband to masturbate when his wife's out of town (and use their self-made video, too, as long as she's cool with that). Better for either spouse to do that than to let the sexual frustration build until they are lending power to temptations that wouldn't normally make them even take a second glance. Also a good (common sense) compromise in marriages between people with very different levels of sexual appetite.

MoJo: I agree and would like to add a second side effect: Contention/disintegration within the marriage relationship even without the possibility of one party going outside the marriage for relief. It may not occur to either spouse to go looking elsewhere, but tempers may flare and create varying levels of contention, which is no more helpful.
    I also don't see a problem with making videos in theory, although I agree with Celia that the risk of it falling into others' hands makes me extremely uncomfortable.

    As for the masturbating-alone thing, I don't know. It's true that no two people will have identical sexual appetites and I can see that spouse-sanctioned masturbation could solve some crankiness issues, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It could fly off in an uncontrollable direction; it could result in a lack of sexual energy for the spouse; it would almost certainly result in more masturbation than is strictly necessary for the issue at hand.

    But all that said, what do I know? This is exactly why the Church avoids going into the bedroom as much as possible and why I will refuse to recommend any course of action regarding (let alone pass any judgment on) this issue beyond the borders of my own marriage (which decisions I shan't be sharing). Sorry. No authoritative pronouncements on this issue forthcoming from Thmazing's Thmusings. Ball's in your court.

On people who think LDS Lit should follow a stricter sexcode than other literature.
    First, I agree that some of the sex in the national market does not belong in books for by and about Mormons. Although, again, I'm not going to start drawing lines and expect other people to follow them.


    I didn't mention this in III.V, but, even though I was expecting it, the sexual portion of Angel Falling Softly DID startle me and I DID feel that its (relatively mild) explicivity didn't fit in with such an 'LDS book'. I've been examining this reaction, looking for understanding, but I'm afraid I haven't a great explanation for it.

    I would not consider anything in the book gratuitous.

    I would not consider anything in the book 'explicit' as I would normally define the word. The most 'explicit' encounter was between a man and his wife and was entirely metaphorical (although metaphors can be sexy).

    The book met my own standards for proper sexuality in fiction cleanly, yet, because I viewed the book as 'LDS', I was still weirded. Why? I didn't have the same feelings about other Zarahemla titles with sex (see Brother Brigham and Long After Dark (as discussed in Part III) and On the Road to Heaven). So what made this one different?

    I'm not sure. Was it because it was well written? (So were LAD and ORH). Was it because some of it was outside marriage? (The main scene of bother wasn't and some of BB's weren't.) Was it because no one had awful results over the inappropriate sex? (That wouldn't explain why the issue appeared as the scene occurred.) Was it because it managed to be slightly titillating? (LAD managed more than that.)

    I just don't know. But I felt I should mention it. I'll keep an eye out for this phenomenon and try to figure out what my own standards are in a way that can be expressed more plainly.

A Definite Definition of Pornography!
    I've used more than one definition for porn over the course of this series, stealing them from D.H. Lawrence ("Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it."), Publishers Weekly ("It is one of the tropes of pure pornography that events are without consequence. No babies, no STDs, no trauma, no memories best left unexamined."), Levi Peterson ("It is gross disproportion that creates pornography. . . . [When things (sex, violence, &c) are] amassed, concentrated, enormously emphasized --- if they become the single end and purpose of the writing --- they are pornographic."), B.W. Jorgensen (can't really nail his down to one sentence), and a few all my own.

    No definition will satisfy all, however. Celia offered these: "...any material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings" (from the Church's website) (which Eugene suggested we clarify to "Any material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that really, really, really arouses sexual feelings.") and "Pornography refers to explicit depictions of sexual activity in written or pictorial form in an exploitive style . . . [in order to create] erotic arousal for commercial gain" (from BYU's website).

    Eugene also suggested that "In porn, the contempt for both [characters and audience] is obvious."

    MoJo combined some of the above: "I think between the two ["consequence-free sex" and "In porn, the contempt for both is obvious."], those might actually be the most succinct and applicable definitions [of pornography] I've ever seen."

    Sure. Whatever. I don't know. From the beginning I said I would be treating the pornography's definition as fluid, and I'm really not anxious to nail it down now. But I will say that separating porn from erotica and obscenity is helpful and allows us to be more precise. Even if we have to redefine the terms every time we meet.

    This indefinability, I think, explains why metaphors are so popular. Like poison! Yes, Jorgensen specifically rejected that metaphor for porn (and for good reason) in Part II, but I'm returning it to it now. Because everyone loves it, darn it.

    Pornography is poison. But, then, so is salt, table salt, good old NaCl. And so is baking soda. And, rumor has it, nutmeg. But to slap a skull and crossbones on pumpkin pie isn't helpful in the least. (Unless it's for a Halloween party, of course.)

    Pornography is poison.

    But some 'pornography' just makes gourds taste delicious.

    (courtesy of theric, professional metaphortician)

And that's enough for today. Again, if you want to reread the earlier posts in this series, click here then scroll down.


  1. Wow. I sure am opinionated and vocal, aren't I.

  2. I think Mojo's last comment about what Pirnigriphy is-- Borrowing Eugene's and Publishers weekly? sums it up great.Its what I was thinking and she got to first.

    Just my 2 bits

    Want you to know I care


    On to another random pick in the list

  3. .

    I'll keep reading your comments.