Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sexual Development In a Fishbowl - The Mormon Problem with Sex

Over the last month, three articles regarding modesty or sex addiction have come to my attention.  One was the Children's Friend article on modesty. The second was brought to my attention by my friend Thad and was linked in  The article appeared on and describes a mother's reasons for banning Barbie dolls from her home.  The third article was this gem written by a marriage and family therapist from St. George.

It is well known that I consume and digest many things in the Mormon Culture of Utah.  It is also well known that I am an open critic of the LDS Church's policies on sex and sexuality and the harm I perceive they do.  This post is no exception.

First I will address briefly the Children's friend article.  The mother has a four year old who is worried about modesty.... and the mother furthers the neurosis by giving her an undershirt to cover the bare shoulders under her sun dress.  The mother then celebrates her four year-old's modesty.  First of all there is no such thing as four year-old modesty.  This is a self concept that has been imposed on the child and is not natural and circumvents the natural development of the child.  As many posters have written already on this topic... shoulders and four year-olds are not sexy.  However, when we engage in a practice of covering every inch of flesh; the net result is, we sexualize those portions of the body which normally wouldn't be sexy.

The next article was written by a mother who had taken the bold step of banning Barbie from her home. Not because of the unrealistic body image that Barbie represents for her daughters but because of the thoughts a naked pink silhouette would give to her sons.

Then one day my oldest son (a big second-grader at the time) came up to me with a half-naked Barbie doll in his hands and said to me sternly, "Mom, I don't think this is an appropriate toy." He had just had a fatherly talk with my husband about what is "appropriate" and what is "a poison worse than the black plague of death itself and should be avoided at all costs, lest it rot your mind like an unstoppable rebel force."

So first of all why would you be giving your 7/8 year old boy a talk about pornography?  Why would you start him on the path of self flagellant guilt.  Making him aware of his sexuality and giving shame to his natural development is not the sign of healthy family... it is the sign of a family who engages in cultish behavior.

I know for families of girls, Barbies are a lifeline, an institution even. But that is not my family. My daughters are surrounded by brothers. Hot-blooded, American boys who should not be put into tough, compromising spots every time they're rooting around the playroom on a quest to find that one LEGO piece to complete their set.
Again, it is the neurosis developed inside of the family that puts boys in the compromising position.  Is it appropriate to make the female form responsible for the boys behavior?  I believe we are sending the message that our daughters are objects and men are unable to control themselves.

And then there was this comment left on the now closed comment board:

Mickelle W.
posted 1 day ago
i personally hate seeing a naked barbie or ken doll laying on the floor of my house. but don't feel like it is fair to allow my son to have his boy toys if i am not going to allow my little girl to have hers. so when the dolls are purchased they become mine long enough to color on a leotard, or boxers depending on the sex of the doll. now who cares if my 7 year old son and all his macho boy friends take off the doll clothes in a front to get sisters goat. barbie remains modest, and mom remains un-bugged that their is a naked toy lying on the floor.
This brand of craziness does not breed children with healthy sexual identities.   Is not the Barbie the appropriate metaphor for the Mormon view of women?  She looks good without any capacity of enjoying sex.  That is where this programming leads and culture is replete with examples.

The final article and the one that really spawned this post was the one written by Geoff Steurer.  He discusses the talk he had with his father-in-law, 15 years ago, when he asked for his wife's hand in marriage.  He said, now the internet is more prevalent, he believes father-in-laws should be asking their potential son-in-laws about potentially sexually addictive behavior.

I have no doubt that if I were to go through that same interview today, her father would more than likely include one more line of questioning. I imagine it would sound something like this:
“Pornography is such a common struggle for so many young men these days. Naturally, I worry that this is something you have struggled with as a teenager or young adult. Will you please describe your experience with pornography and how you’ve handled it?”
Geoff, is a therapist.  They don't mind telling you that in the article.  However what they don't tell you is that pornography addiction and sexual addiction are not recognized by the APA.  He also does not tell you that masturbation is a normal sexual behavior.  Use of pornography for that purpose is considered normal.  Sexual addiction and pornography use at all, in LDS communities, is immediately assigned to addiction status even if the use is occasional and does not interfere with daily functioning.
If there isn’t a father in the home, then I still think it’s a good idea for the mother to have this conversation with the boyfriend. As awkward as it may seem to bring up this topic, I believe it’s even more awkward to deal with the potential aftermath if this issue surfaces later in marriage. 
Please note that if you are personally struggling with an unresolved pornography problem, it will make it difficult, if not impossible, to counsel a future son-in-law about your concerns. You will feel like a phony and will either avoid the conversation all together, or minimize the seriousness of it as a way to protect yourself from the reality of your own struggles. If you have struggled with pornography and haven’t fully repented and recovered from the impact on your life, make sure that you’re actively working the same recovery process you would expect from this young man.

Does anyone see this as a boundary issue?

Discussion Points:
  • Tell me about your experience with pornography over your lifetime.
  • Is there a history of pornography use in your immediate or extended family?
  • How do you define pornography?
  • How have you healed from the impact of pornography on your life?
  • Who helped you overcome your problems with pornography?
  • How do you currently protect yourself from pornography?
  • Have you ever wanted to stop viewing pornography, but couldn’t?
I know what I would have and would still tell my father-in-law if this came up... 'it is none of your business!'

Under his bullet point red flags the author says to worry if:
He insists that he’s never even seen pornography and appears “too perfect” in his responses. Recognize that even though he may not have seen hardcore pornography, we live in a culture saturated with pornographic images. If he acts like he doesn’t notice or isn’t affected by those, you need to be concerned. Every man should acknowledge the occasional pull from images that are designed to draw our attention and entice us.

The author is turning windmills into dragons.  He has to convince you that your normal sexual feelings and compulsions are abnormal.  So if you are looking at the Victoria Secret Catalogue  or the underwear section of the JcPenny Catalogue you are on the "slippery slope."  The problem with the author's stance here; is it is out of sync with contemporary thought on the issues of sexual development.  The migration to pornography may be more normal than the dogmatic abstinence of everything sexual.

It occurred to me, as I read the last article, growing up Mormon, especially in Utah, that you develop sexually in a fishbowl.  From the beginning, we have over protective and ill informed mothers inserting themselves into our sexuality.  If it is not the constant and unhealthy messages of modesty, it is interest in what we do in our private exploration.  We have Bishops, Stake Presidents and now future father-in-laws, asking us about our sexual habits as if they had a personal investment in it.  Mormons like to create distance between the practices of the FLDS and find the recent revelations that Jeffs engaged in sex in the temple with his brides in front of the witnesses disturbing.  Are they really that far removed from engaging in that type of voyeurism when they insert themselves into every aspect of, not only their children's, but every member's sexual practices?  Not just every member but also members of the unaffiliated community.

I have seen appropriately dressed females chastised for wearing clothing, that covers all of the appropriate regions, because they might be provocative or the are wearing fishnets and shorts.  I have had mother's assert that they would not allow their son's to engage in a stage kiss; because, they wanted their son's first kiss to be with the woman he was going to marry.  I have heard lectures of modesty given to unaffiliated girls who were also prepubescent and I have seen third parties put into a position of monitoring adult behavior to prevent any potential for adultery.

The Mormon obsession with sex is not healthy.  I have seen it cripple marriages and more importantly the healthy development of sexual attitudes and identities in children.  Instead of the fishbowl mentality it is time members tell everyone outside of their marriage "it is none of your business".  It is also time that we allow our children to develop sexually and to explore their bodies in a safe and nurturing environment that acknowledges that sex and sexual development are deeply personal and you are allowed to get aroused and deal with that arousal in a healthy, private, and pro-social way.  It is time we tell those loud and uniformed voices that what they are doing with their children is abusive and needs to stop.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Religious Debate... Where is your evidence?

A few days ago I linked this article from Not Very Useful Truths blog.  The author posted based upon a post placed by Kiley at We Were Going to be Queens.  This post resulted in, at last count, a 93 entry Facebook debate on my wall.  It was a debate that was brought to me not one I sought out.

I enjoy, for the most part, Facebook debates about religion and especially Mormonism.  This debate was no exception.  However when engaging in an "intellectual" debate one would assume that presentation of evidence that was objective, peer reviewed and or based upon accepted scientific principles would be enough to receive an acknowledgement that the facts in the argument simply do not support the belief structure.  Not when debating religion in general and especially, in this case, Mormonism.

The debate started of simply enough with an assertion that the doctrine was misunderstood.  When probed for proof the proof offered simply did not support the argument.  I certainly do not think of the LDS church, as a whole, is a force for good.  I don't think their stands on homosexuality, sexuality in general, and specifically as it pertains to the development of sexual identity in our children is a force for good.  I asserted in the argument that a church ran lawyers and MBAs cannot possibly run a church that is anything other than a corporation who looks out after its corporate interest first.

When the debate turned to the origin of the church and the lack of historical evidence that any of the claims are true; the debate turned interesting.  One of the participants in the debate, a medical practitioner, denied the validity of universally applied DNA testing methods.  He also denied that science has the ability to track the migration of populations based upon DNA.  Even though the Human Genome Project has provided enough information that we can track the migratory patterns of humans and determine through genetics where your tribe migrated from.  This is useful in the argument against the idea members of the so called Nation of Israel migrated to the Americas in 600 bce.  It also disproves the assertion the Garden of Eden was in Missouri.  What we know and now accept as fact is the human species originated in Africa.  Not the Americas.  The research has been published and peer reviewed.  The National Geographic Society published the finding and produced the documentary The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey.  When presented with the evidence this was the reaction:

Yeah right! And who's to say they're right or wrong? Their colleagues. I love so-called science that no one can prove or disprove. "This rock is 30 Billion years old". Who can refute it? I say it's 300 Billion years old! Wait, are we talking the age of it's creation, or the big bang formation of matter, in that case the rock is 600 trillion years old! Woah mama! These guys can throw around numbers with the best of them.
Wow, they disproved the garden of Eden was in Missouri? That's amazing! Oh the wisdom of men. They're so sure about things until another discovery comes along and disproved the whole notion.

I am not a fan of everything under the umbrella of "science". I am more a fan of applied science. You know, science that can actually be tested. The migration patterns of humans makes for good academic fodder, but there no way of testing thest theories.
(he hasn't seen the documentary but is willing to dismiss it outright)

 The fact that years of science education and critical analysis training cannot break down the two decades of prior religious indoctrination is concerning.  I think this graphic illustrates the discussion well.

I struggle to understand why, given the evidence, people of science trained in critical thought can find themselves sitting in pews of any religious order and especially orders that have assertions that are so easy to disprove such as Scientology and Mormonism.  They invest 10s of thousands of dollars in tithes, offerings, and service hours to these organizations who sit at the fringe of intellectual thought.

So here is my challenge.  If you come to my blog or Facebook page with assertions your religion is true.  Prove it!  Not with articles from the Ensign, FAIR, FARMS, The Catholic League, The Watchtower etc., but with peer reviewed scientific studies that have been published in secular scientific journals.  Your doctrinal claims mean nothing without objective evidence to back it up.  I have yet to see one ounce of credible evidence that any of the claims of Mormonism are based in fact.  No migration.  No great civilizations. No golden plates. However there is a great deal of evidence that disproves the migration, Eden in Missouri, the authenticity of the Book of Abraham.  When added to the historically factual accounts of the miserable characters of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young it makes it a hard pill to swallow.  So if you feel the need to defend your faith from people like me... first bring your evidence.

But before you do you might want to brush up on you logical fallacies: