The Erotic in LDS Lit
Part X: Reengaging the Unengaging Jorgensen
(who won't engage me)


Before I get started, it's been a while since I've written one of these posts, so let me brielfy review my Erotic in LDS Lit posts so interested new readers can get the lay of the sexy sexy land:
In the new issue of Irreantum is an article by Mr Jorgensen, star of Part II as listed above, titled "Reading About Sex in Mormon Fiction --- If We Can Read". Yay, right?

No. Not yay. I'm sorry to say this new article of his is borderline pointless. As Tyler described it, it is "kind of condescending". Jorgensen's working assumption seems to be that no one in his audience has ever ever ever considered the possibility of "sex", "Mormon" and "fiction" appearing in the same sentence. So I suppose I should recognize that I and my fellow Thutopians must not be his target audience. But still. What a boring, pointless read this was.

Taking figures provided in the article and doing some basic arithmetic, I can figure that ol' Bruce is now about 65 so maybe he has old-man interwebz ignorance, but I wish he had recognized his grandfatherly role in this discussion and brought some innovation to bear instead of delighting in rehashed tired thoughts. (And on top of that he driveby insults Anita Stansfield and her readers. Come on.)

For Mr. J's information, since he and Levi appeared in Dialogue lo these many years ago --- or even better, since I responded to them last year --- there has been plenty written on the subject. Just at my ehome-away-from-ehome, Tyler and Laura have both initiated fruitful discussions; and, although I haven't followed them as closely, similar angles have been attacked on some of the even-bigger Mormon blogs. So just mentioning sex isn't enough to make you cutting edge anymore.

What I wish is that he would hop online and read up and then engage us in discussion. Because the discussion has matured. We're not in 101 anymore. We're ready to engage in graduate work.

So engage us.


  1. Lay of the land. Chuckle.

    Okay: I'm off to read your serialized saga and get all current. Can't wait.

  2. To be fair to Jorgensen, I'm sure there are critical conversations that we should be aware of that we aren't.

    [Of course part of that is because the AML-List archives and the AML Annual Meeting Proceedings aren't available].

  3. All ten parts, including the extensive comments, were great reading. Thanks again.

  4. .

    Wow, Luisa! You're Thursday must have been wide open!

    Wm: Undoubtedly, but they weren't referenced in his article either.

  5. I want to comment because Bruce Jorgensen was my very favorite English professor at BYU. (Well, he and Paul Baltes are about even favorites.) I learned more about what makes "good literature" in Jorgensen's writing class then I did in any of my literature classes. However, I feel that I am not adequately educated about the subject of LDS erotica, and the critical thought surrounding it to make a thoughtful answer, except to say, I have really appreciated your insightful discussions, and it's too bad that Jorgensen hasn't read them/considered them in his essays.

  6. .

    That's very diplomatic of you.


    And the reason I find it upsetting is because I think he could add a lot to the ongoing discussion if he were aware and participating.

  7. .

    Shoot. That was me again.

  8. Thanks for posting all these here, Theric. I'm going to read them in order (I already found Part I to be quite insightful), and hopefully be a more meaningful part of the discussion.

  9. .

    Looking forward to it!

  10. The more I think about it, the more I realize one of my main concerns with Jorgensen's essay is the lack of dialogue between what's gone before and what's going on now. And, as Wm. points out, there are some reference points that we may not be taking into account either.

    Which leads me to believe that we need someone to collect these references in a bibliography, perhaps; and I've happily nominated myself for the (ongoing) project, which may actually serve me well in my academic pursuits (unless anyone knows of someone that's already undertaken the collection; if so, nevermind). But I feel it's a worthy enough enterprise and I'm interested enough in it to start building.

    I mean, just FYI.

  11. .

    Excellent. I was thinking about nominating you, but I didn't want to distract you from your other project....

  12. Oh, I'm working on that daily, too. In fact, digging through Dialogue, I've found quite a few gems for both projects.

  13. .

    That makes me feel very happy.

  14. For the record: you’ve done a great job of not making the series “sensational.” I’ve really appreciated the series and the comments.
    Hyperprudism – definitely describes me. Some of that came from my parents (who have since mellowed), some came from church/Young Women, and a lot came from me and my drive to be perfect. My own hyperprudism has become counter-productive, and that’s something that I’m trying to change. If I’m headed down the canyon on said road and I’m busy hugging the wall, I’m not going to make very good time. I’ve realized this and let go of the wall, but the struggle now is to figure out how far back to scoot without falling off the edge. I feel like I’m doing this with my back to the ledge, which leaves unsure of where the ledge is.
    Unintentional but probable stimulation: How much of it is my responsibility as a female, and how much of it is a man’s responsibility? As a kid, I wanted to prove that I wasn’t at all hindered in the ‘smart’ category just because I was (still am, I guess) a girl. So I didn’t really care too much about my femininity. Young Women’s lessons about modesty didn’t help either, as the message I received was “if the boys have bad thoughts, it’s your fault for not dressing modestly enough.” In the same way that I’m trying to back away from the canyon wall without going over the cliff, I’m now trying to learn how to appreciate my femininity in the way I dress, while keeping with the boundaries that are set by my garments. It’s more of a struggle than I wish it was. Not in the “I want to wear this super-cute halter top, but dang those garments!” type way, but in figuring out how to not dress like a nun. Since I work at a university (and it’s not even BYU…), and since I know that a lot of these guys are still highly attracted to a broad spectrum of women and circumstances, how does that affect my choices each morning when I’m getting ready for work?
    Part of my hyperprudism growing up was modesty. Every YW lesson on modesty that I heard was being preached to the choir. If I ever asked my parents to buy me a tank top, they would talk to me about modesty and how I would someday wear garments and that I needed to dress modestly so it wouldn’t be a big shock (or something to that effect). When I was in high school, I was allowed to buy tank tops, but only for wearing under other shirts. Then, during college, any time I would buy clothes, I would make sure they could be “garment appropriate” so that if I got married soon-ish (I wear my clothes for a REALLY long time after buying them), I wouldn’t have to get rid of them. Once I did start wearing garments, though, I was pretty surprised. My garments give me a lot more leeway than I had expected.
    Also, I think Mr. Jorgensen is seriously missing out for not wanting to engage this group.

    Wow, took me a while to read, digest, and comment.

  15. ...and my formatting totally disappeared. Sorry about that. That's what I get for copying and pasting, I suppose.

  16. .

    Darn those keystrokes.

    I think the questions you're asking yourself (that we all are asking ourselves) are healthy because it means that we're taking responsibility for ourselves. Instead of, say, blaming someone else for being cute and making me think about sex.

    And the garment guideline does allow for a lot of leeway. Someone tell my wife.


  17. I could tell your wife, but then again: Is it easier to dress like a wife and have potentially fewer problems with people who are not your spouse being attracted to you? Or is it worth it to relax and open up a little more? Do I buy a certain shirt knowing that it conforms with my garments and that my husband will think it looks awesome even though I know that it may attract unwanted attention at work?

  18. Cinderella, I haven't stopped thinking about your situation since you first posted.

    It makes me sad for a whole lot of reasons.

  19. .

    In the book I'm writing this summer, my characters discuss the differences between dressing beautifully to inspire the aesthetic soul of passersby vs. dressing to inspire lust in passersby.

  20. Th, that sounds very interesting. I'm definitely interested in reading that.

    Moriah - Why?

  21. @Cinderella


    Hm. I don't know how how to explain this.

    For some women, having a body (beauty) that could/would inspire desire/lust would be considered a blessing, a privilege.

    Lessons in modesty aside, a woman with such a body who feels a strong need to hide it to deflect desire/lust (especially to such an extent that the garment is more permissive) is a bit...bewildering.

    I don't mean any disrespect. I'm just trying to explain it. Probably not doing a very good job.

  22. Moriah,

    I don't feel like you mean any disrespect at all.

    I've always loved the crooners (Sinatra, Crosby, etc. etc.) ever since I discovered them. My parents have joked that I was born in the wrong music decade. As I watch old movies from the time, I was just born in the wrong decade. I definitely feel like I can relate more to the leading women of the time than I can to most of today's leading women.

    As you may have noticed, this is definitely a mind set that I'm trying to change. I'm getting near a point where I will be buying new clothes, which always (for me) comes with a close look at my current definition of my self. I'm interested in what you have to say.

    If you'd feel more comfortable, you can e-mail me at c (dot) b (dot) swenson (at) gmail. I didn't offer before because I was wondering if the followers of this thread would benefit more from the discussion happening here.

  23. .

    I would appreciate it if the discussion stayed here, in part because you're making mull over a post on modesty and I would appreciate the input.

  24. I intend to keep it here. I need to get clarity on it myself before I say more.

    Clothes and modesty (or not) are subjects close to my heart for a reason and I want to be very precise.

  25. Disclaimer: This is very personal for me. Theric will probably now understand why I haven't been so quick to post this.

    This is where the story starts, and with the same line I use to start it every time I tell it: When I was 5, my grandmother told my mother I was fat.

    My mother, being ashamed that my grandmother had found fault with her child, put me on a diet and dressed me in tent dresses. They weren’t quite burqas, but you get the picture. My entire identity was “fat.”

    This was me, at 6.

    I spent many years being smart and clever and talented with my hands and surprisingly athletic. I got stronger and faster, but no leaner.

    Nobody cared.

    My entire worth was wrapped up in whether I was thin enough. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “You’re too pretty to be that fat” . . .

    And, well, I got fat.

    So there was this weird cognitive dissonance when, in Young Women’s, I heard the lessons on chastity and modesty, and I completely tuned them out. 1) I was too fat and ugly to attract anyone, so the chastity part was already taken care of. 2) I couldn’t fit into any of the clothes I found that attracted my artist’s eye (and boy, did I love to look at clothes and fantasize about wearing them). 3) My wardrobe consisted of tent dresses, made by my mother, to hide my fat.

    When your entire worth is judged on your figure and your beauty (because thin = beautiful-- apparently, there is no such thing is a thin ugly woman, at least, there wasn't in my world), and nothing else matters, then the ability to be IMmodest, to be desired and lusted after, to have a measure of SEXUAL worth, becomes the Holy Grail.

    Now, I almost attained the Holy Grail at 33 (never made it to my goal), and it had taken a lot of years to get around the physical damage done to my body by years of chronic starvation and malnutrition at a very young age in an effort to MAKE me lose weight. (You can never undo.) Heck, it took ten years for me to figure out what diet would do the trick, what was best for my body.

    This was me, at 33.

    The story behind that picture, and how I got there, is all online. I chronicled the entire journey. If you knew where to look, you’d be able to find it with an easy Google search.

    I’m 41 now. I’ve had two babies. My body is still damaged (more, post-delivery). It doesn’t take to diet and exercise as well as it did 10 years ago, even the program I know works on every level of my health and mental wellbeing. I feel like my youth is gone and what’s worse, that I didn’t have one at all.

    Never wore the beautiful things that would please my artist’s eye.

    Never flashed a little T&A here and there to get whistled at.

    Never had the chance to be a little furtive and immodest.

    Never had a reason to be admonished about my choices in clothing because nobody likes a fat girl in cute clothes.

    At this point in my life, if I could magically have that 16-/18-/20-something body I never had, I would show it off as much as possible.

    Women are/get fat for a whole lot of reasons, among them is a way to hide themselves from predators because they've been abused/molested, and that’s valid. I can see that.

    But that’s not my issue, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one with my issue, and the whole modesty thing, when what you want/need MOST in the world is to be seen as having some measure of sexual worth (not to mention pleasing your family by having overcome your lazy, gluttonous ways), is simply . . . bewildering.

    And, if I'm completely honest, worthy of great envy.

    One last thing. My grandmother still has no interest in talking to me unless I'm talking about what I am currently doing to lose weight.

  26. Oh, that pic of me at 6. That outfit was my OTHER grandmother's doing. She liked to thumb her nose at my mother/grandmother by buying me clothes they hated, and using me to poke at them.

    Unfortunately, she intentionally bought them a size too small every single time, which didn't really help matters, for a whole lot of reasons.

  27. Moriah,

    I appreciate you telling your story. I can see why you find my situation sad, and I see your situation as sad in return. Without lessening your life experience, I actually see some similarities between our circumstances. More on that in a moment.

    First, a couple of points of clarification on my part:

    1- When Theric mentions that I should tell Lady Steed that garments allow more than she thinks they do, my response should have included the phrase "dress like a nun" instead of "dress like a wife."

    2- When I mentioned that I relate more to the leading women in the old movies (Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, etc.), I was refering to a stronger sense of propriety, but also to their shapes. My husband and I recently watched The Pride and the Passion, and I realized with delight that she's curvy. So am I, and it was nice to see that (same with Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas) and realize that very curvy was once the ideal instead of Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde or the now-super-skinny Sandra Bullock in The Proposal.

    Back to my perceived similarities between us. What stood out to me is you being conditioned by your mother and grandmother to think you were fat. (I'm truly sorry, by the way, that your grandmother still won't talk to you unless you're discussing weight loss.) I was conditioned by my parents (and grandparents -- at least on my dad's side -- conditioned good-girl-ness and being smart. I don't really have an 'artistic eye' in relation to clothes, and my parents brought us all up to be very practical. I had cute clothes, but I was quite nerdy, and that often set me apart from peers. I just didn't *care* about my clothes like they did. I also saw that when we became teenagers, the girls generally started acting stupid and ditzy, and I wasn't about to let my being a girl get in the way of being perceived as smart by my guy friends. I had very little comprehension of how visual men are (especially as teenagers), but I do remember that my dad once wigged out over a pair of shorts I was wearing, telling me and my mom they were too short. They would have been too short for garments, but they were MUCH longer than the shorts most of the girls my age were wearing at the time, including those in my ward.

    I was so concerned by the smart issue, and by being a good girl, that I essentially rejected my femininity for many, many years. I was rewarded for good grades, for performing well in band and choir concerts, and for being 'strong in the gospel.' Even during engagement, I had a tough time walking into a Victoria's Secret. Being forced to even acknowledge that I was female, let alone that my figure could be attractive. (I'm perfectly comfortable in that and other stores now, thanks to my sweet and patient husband.)

    To be continued...

  28. Part two:

    Even now, at work, I still find myself wanting to make sure that people know that I'm competent, and it's a fair amount of work to convince myself that giving myself a few clothing allowances won't diminish that perception. It's tough.

    When you say that you heard so many times that "you're too pretty to be fat," and that you became fat, I feel like I can relate to that somewhat. I was told that I was a good girl, so I became a good girl. I tried pretty damn hard to be perfect. That's another thing I'm trying to overcome.

    In YW, I also felt a disconnect when it came to modesty, because I felt like I couldn't get any more modest. I didn't want guys to think I was attractive; I wanted them to think I was smart and interesting, and I succeeded. I became "the best friend." I was the one who gave my guyfriends advice on how to "get in" with my few close girl friends. I had a few boyfriends, but I always believed that they were around because I was smart and interesting, and had relatively little to do with my physical attractiveness.

    With the help of my husband, I have made a lot of progress, and I'm starting to recognize my own physical beauty, but I still have a long way to go. It's difficult for me to ignore the clamors of society and realize that my 40-30-40 figure is beautiful, even if that's not what's popular in the media right now. I'm learning which stores sell clothing that comes close to fitting me and flattering me (which is its own frustration) instead of being cut for boyish figures.

    I don't fault my parents at all. They were merely doing the best they could, trying to teach me principles of the gospel. They may have gone slightly overboard, but in their defense, I took those principles and ran with them, so the effect was more amplified than it might have been.

  29. .

    (After-the-fact-disclaimer: I was joking about the Lady-Steed-vs-her-garments thing. It's the randy-male persona. Someday I'll find a better use for it.)

  30. Cinderella,

    You made me cry again. LOL Yes, I see the similarities--well--the mirror.

    I was the best friend too. Not the smart one, though. My brothers kind of took over that role. I wasn't...anything.

    Anyway, I dabble at tailoring and I love the fashions of the era you cite. I have a good eye for what works on what bodies, and I'd love to be able to dress you the way I think you want to dress.

    Other than that, I have nothing else to say. This thread is getting a little too deep (aka personal) for me. :)

  31. .

    [Edit: Fixed coding error.]

  32. .

    As a matter of public repentance, note: I emailed Bruce last night about a project I'm working on and he emailed me back immediately this morning, full of help and ideas. Truly, a gentleman.