LDS Eros: False Universalism


[Note: this is the first in an occasional series that will build upon my Erotic in LDS Lit series. Both series will share the same lds-eros tag which can be found at the bottom of each article.]


Recently I referred readers to the Sunstone article When Virgins Collide, which presumes that the author's experience of orgasmless years of marriage are typical of Mormon marriages. Shortly before that I was with a few other LDS couples and two of the women mentioned a similar story from somewhere in the Bloggernacle about a woman who couldn't make sex happen at all for some portion of her marriage and they chuckled and said that's crazy! and, it wasn't that way for me! and therefore, she's a freak! a one-of-a-kind! because obviously my experience is typical!

Remember when we were kids and we assumed everyone was like us? If I want a submarine, then a submarine makes the perfect birthday gift for my friend. But as we get older, this happens less and less as we grow and learn that other people have different needs and different desires and different interests --- that other people are just different. But this broadened understanding doesn't seem to happen with sex. Why? I suspect it's because we just don't talk about it enough.

Now, if you're read my previous posts, you know I don't advocate constant sexual discourse and anysuch, but in The Sex Talk, I do argue for more openness than we tend to now.

To be fair, the anonymous author of "When Virgins Collide" does as well* --- she even gives a sex talk to her Relief Society. I don't think that bringing every personal detail out into the open (or perhaps any at all) is wise and good, but as a generic topic? Needed. And it can only be genericized, made safe, by talking about it.

And until we do start talking, we will continue to make erroneous assumptions about others' needs and desires and interests, just because we are unaware that ours are not universal.

And that can only lead to hurt feeling and awkward pauses and other unpleasantness. Ick. And we don't want unpleasantness.

Official Thmusings Policy: Unpleasantness not preferred.

Thank you.


  1. Crap. First poster, I hate that.

    I don't think this is limited to sex, though. I look at the people in my ward and I know *I* am different from them in how I think, but I assume that they are each like each other, that somehow I am the only different one.

    Money. They all have more than I do.

    Debt. They all have less than I do.

    Time. They all have more than I do.

    Ability/talent. They all have more than I do. And woe be to me if someone has a talent ability I don't have an I want!

    Faithfulness. They're all far more faithful than I am or ever could be.

    Sometimes it's a wonder I go at all, assuming that *they* are universal in their superiority to *me*. And that they deserve that because they are more faithful than I and therefore, more blessed (and loved) by the ward.

    I know. It's just crazy talk.

    But your point, I think, is more, ah, *universal* than as applies to sex.

    (Stop me before I post again.)

  2. more blessed (and loved) by the ward.

    I meant, loved by the Lord more.

  3. .

    I agree, it's not just sex. But sex, apparently, has been on my mind this year.

    An interesting thing happened at church some weeks ago: someone said they had a hard time learning not to judge others by their finery and I thought crap, I've been judging you by your finery.

    In the end, we're all human. In the end, assuming and judging will never quite go away. But we can work on it. And I think openness will help. As I just read on someone else's blog (someone who, incidentally, complained about your cover on LDSF), "If there is an elephant in the room, introduce it."

    The big problem is this: when something is never discussed, we forget it's an elephant. Wait --- this elephant metaphor sucks. Let's say there's a horrible stain on the wall that we've forgotten about because we live with it. Some people think Blood!, some people think Wine!, some people are just confused.

    Okay, this metaphor bites too. Anyway, if we never talk about things, we cease realizing they need to be (or even can be) talked about. And that keeps assumption alive. (And judgment as well, often enough.)

  4. There is a phrase somewhere in the Bible about our sins being declared from the rooftops on Judgment Day. IME, it's been used as the big bogeyman of your life so you won't do those things, but your comment made me wonder if it will have a healing effect?

    (Kinda like my concept of justice and mercy is that they are the same thing: you get what you deserve, but you're perfectly happy with it.)

    I'll think on that more tomorrow. I'm tired.

  5. .

    I think yes on the Judgment Day question. Although I think 'relief' might have a lot to do with it.

    But here I'm less about sinning and more about openness to the spectrum of righteous behavior.

  6. Okay, so I've been thinking about this and I can see no way around stating the obvious:

    We are a people of rules.

    We like rules. We like to know where the lines are. When we don't know where the lines are, we draw them ourselves and have the idea that to err on the of caution is too liberal. Is there Caution+? Caution++?

    In re: "hot chocolate," not "coffee" table. I know a woman for whom this is a serious matter, and she is the wife of the second counselor in the stake presidency; I would imagine he is simpatico with this think.

    So...getting into sex and talking about it--hell, we can't even define our terms to the youth without blushing, stammering, muttering.

    Which brings me to...we have a rule book. We all know what it is. It sets forth specific DO NOTs and brands them as sin. It's EASY to fall in behind that book and say, "This is the way it is so," because someone A) defined the terms and B) got really specific and WE LIKE IT THAT WAY. Because it's easy. So we don't talk about it because...why? Because talking about it is hard and we might be breaking some rule somewhere we don't know about and, thus, sinning.

    What happens amongst women who've been married a while, who are friends with each other, and who confide other things, well...we get to talking about this, our concerns and problems and issues in the bedroom. The young women need to be in on these conversations before they get married.

    There just simply aren't enough resources available from the church that aren't vague and/or condemning to make us, a people of rules, comfortable with talking about it except in small groups of long-married women who know each other well.

    What NEEDS to happen is simply to demystify sex. I wouldn't take it amiss if the CES came up with a sex ed program, starting with anatomy, going through how arousal works (Discovery Channel!), the physiology of sex and puberty and hormones, masturbation, the mechanics and practicalities of having sex (i.e., positions! and girls! pee after you have sex), birth control, and issues that have to do with aging and mismatched libidos and sickness/injury (e.g., one spouse just...can't and how to "properly" deal with your own needs), and the socio-economic/emotional ramifications of having sex before you're married.

    This should be part of the core YM/YW program and the kids should be hit with it not long after they leave primary.

    And with such instruction should come no bitterness, no condemnation, no judgment. The curriculum should be developed by LDS ob/gyns and psychiatrists and psychologists who deal with such issues.

    As long as we're a people of rules, who seem to need them so much to tell us when we're on the straight and narrow, IMO, it would only be palatable to the membership at large if it were presented with the church's stamp of approval.

  7. On top of the things that Mojo mentioned which should be taught/discussed, I would have to say (and again, here I am just getting my opinions from fMh) that teaching sensuality is important. Teaching that sex is NOT evil, but it needs to be reserved. That sexuality is a subset of sensuality, and sensuality is what lets you enjoy life--cool breezes, delicious foods, warm soft blankets, etc. Teaching how to be comfortable with your bodies, be one with your bodies (all this emphasis on modesty sort of gives off the impression of bodily shame/carnal damnation/other ascetic principles that the LDS don't ascribe to in doctrine, but they do in culture). How to tell the difference between wanting to improve yourself (specifically your body) for the right reasons vs the wrong reasons, and how to do so healthily.

    I think LDS culture does not like bodies that much, and it's depressing. And I think it's because in mainstream culture, bodies are so overly sexualized, that LDS culture becomes more prudish than it needs to be to try to make up for that.

    So, I would say, start with a foundation of teaching how to appreciate these bodies of ours during our whole lives. These precious gifts that the bad guys couldn't get. I think that would make discourse on sex a lot easier.

  8. Color me prude . . . ok, please don't. I find it easier to speak about these things with people who aren't members of the church. I am, however, shocked at how many LDS seem to live an unfulfilled sex-life. I've siblings whose spouses have conversed with my spouse about his very thing. Shocking.

    It is very important, as you have stated, that we teach our youth the difference between bad and situational. My parents failed me in this arena. I even argued with a friend that my parents had never had sex (fourth grade). At the time, my parents had five children. I do not remember much about the argument but I'm pretty certain my friend thought I was plain loony.

    I have never felt that my feelings or desires were universal; however, I have to remind myself constantly that they may be more common than I think.

  9. how many LDS seem to live an unfulfilled sex-life.

    I think this is the elephant in the room.

  10. .

    'Demystification' is my argument in a word.

    I'm skeptical of a CES course because I like the Church's out-of-the-bedroom stance, but that might actually be part of the 'problem' --- who knows.

    (Book for MoJo: Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi)

    NecDan -- the recess before sixth-grade sexed, I was arguing with my friends against the possibility of sex as they were describing it. I was certain, at the very least, that wasn't how babies were made? When they asked me my opinion, I guessed breasts --- men and women both have nipples; they must have something to do with it. (In other words, I'm with you on this one.)

    Redoubt, I think, officially, we are prosensuality, but we never use that term and we don't often make the connection between coming-to-Earth, cool breezes, and a good roll in the hay. But they're all part of the same gift.

    Perhaps all we really need from on high are expressions of gratitude for this gift. That might well be enough to get us over the hump.

  11. The Things We Don't Talk About in Public (i.e., religion, money, politics, sex) isn't a new thing. It's old, very old. Puritan, Victorian old.

    We, as a culture, are still living in the 1950s when girls "got in trouble" and went away to an aunt's for 9 months, then came back. There were rules; we 1950s Americans liked rules.

    However, most of these rules were unspoken and the mothers taught the daughters the rules by a subtle, angry twitch of the head or narrowing of the eyes, whenever they made a public gaffe.

    And our mothers taught us that (I'm a Baby Buster aka very leading-edge Gen-X), and carried it over through the late 60s and the 70s when things got, well, swinging. And then the rules were codified in a book, which has directly impacted my mother's generation (because it made it okay to be that harsh) and directly impacted my generation, and the first half of the generation just behind me.

    The effects of the 1950s and the anti-free-love backlash aren't going to go away any time soon.

    Perhaps all we really need from on high are expressions of gratitude for this gift. That might well be enough to get us over the hump.

    It would have to be long and sustained.

    I agree that perhaps CES isn't the best vehicle for something like this, but the point that knowing about SENSUALITY and that sex is part of our senses is IMPERATIVE, is well taken. I don't know how one would teach that, but teaching the mechanics would be a good start.

    Milk before meat.


  12. We are pro- a lot of good things in doctrine and therefore "officially," but most of is gets lost in translation to the culture.

    That's my main problem. It's really hard to sort through and find the real meaning behind things, when everyone is so bent on inundating you with misinterpretations and cultural doctrines.

    PS. My word verification is "pherac" which is like a cross-lingual mispronunciation of "Theric"

  13. .

    Yes, I get that a lot when I'm abroad.

  14. this may be bad place to be bearing my soul i dont know but i have read your blog since you started these erotic posts and this on is to me the most distressing because it makes me to afraid of what is ahead of me

    i am your original good mormon boy who served a mission and came home and is going to byu and wanting to get married and not having iny luck that way but not giving up. the words to GOD SPEED THE RIGHT take a special meening to desperate byu singles haha

    but seriously i am scared of the idea of sex. sometimes i am happy that i have never been in a serious relationship because i know they sometimes lead to marry and i just don't know that i'm up to it. i read posts like this and i think what good is sex if i'm the only one enjoying it. no one ever gave me the sex talk and i started masturbating before i even knew what sex was. i had no idea what my body was doing and i was scared to ask. i was addicted hardcore for very long time. still am sometimes. hard to shake it. but masterbation sucks because its just frustrating and leaves me feeling sick and lonely and dirty and sinful. i have confessed to four different bishops and my mission president and evey time i say i think i'm done it turns out i'm not. sexuality is to me a plague. i think of sex in marriage and if i can't pleasure my own woman i could just stay single and masturbate and feel like trash and go to hell.

    i don't feel really that way but it seems like why not.

    give me your thoughts. speak to us singles. what is it we ought to know. i took a marriage prep class and was told that if i read books about sex before i was engaged it was the same as looking at pornography. well i know all about porn and don't want any of that.

    i bet this post makes you uncomfortable to read. i bet you'd like to just ignore it. but you can't. you can't any of you who subscribe to the comments on this blog. you all talk but you never say anything for me. just each other. just say yeah i wish we had known.

    i dont ask my family cuz they all think i'm dirty anway. i ask you because you dont know me and i don't know who you are so we're all just anonymous friends here.


  15. .

    I will.

    Can you be patient? I'll make it a fullblown post and I'll want to make sure I'm saying what I mean to say.

    In the meantime, from my own experience and that of others close to me, I will throw out a few talking points.

    1. Sex is simple enough that 14yrolds like Romeo and Juliet could get it right.

    2. Sex is complex enough that some people go decades without finding pleasure in it.

    3. If your true #1 goal is the joy and pleasure and comfort of your partner, than you will succeed in giving joy and pleasure and comfort.

    4. Sex is holy and good.

    5. Sex (and its hollow substitutes like porn and masturbation) is highly addictive and potentially ruinous.

    I realize I am once again speaking without really saying anything, but I assure you, some thtraight talk is coming.

    You'll be in my thoughts.

  16. leaves me feeling sick and lonely and dirty and sinful

    This makes me very sad. I wish there were something I could say that would make you feel not this way, but likely your feelings are ingrained.

    Your post was very sad. I don't know what to say to comfort you.

  17. .

    Elder Oaks said, "In our church we don’t have rules. We have doctrine and we have principles.”

    (I'm still mulling over the post, not to worry.)