On a T&S thread, someone mentions sex. TMI, cry a few bloggernackers. But are they the exception or the rule? The numbers tell the tale: Gordon’s limbo thread has currently drawn 4 comments; Joe’s sex thread 86. The readers have spoken unambiguously. But why? Why do we so like to talk about sex in the bloggernacle?
Perhaps it is because we talk about sex all the time anyway. Perhaps we chat with friends and neighbors and home-teaching companions about our views on natural birth control or same-sex attraction. Perhaps Rosalynde tells all of her ward members that breasts are like beards.
In my own experience and observation, this is definitely not the case. Sex is generally an off-limits topic among most church members who I know in real life. There are exceptions, but Mormons generally don’t talk about sex. And (again, based on anecdotal evidence) I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this — in fact, one blogger once noted to me that it is quite shocking how openly Mormons discuss sex on the blogs.
So perhaps the opposite holds true. Perhaps the bloggernacle is an outlet for normally unexpressed concerns, a place of safety where one can discuss sex without fear of retribution. After all, we discuss all sorts of crazy, personal things in the nacle — from testimonies and doubts to maggots in the laundry — so why not branch out a little and discuss the various sensual uses of chocolate truffles, or the religious implications of orgasms?
Discussion of these topics online is also safe — in some ways. It’s relatively safe from the perspective of maintaining the Mormon facade. There is little chance that a shocked ward member will report one to the bishop. It’s also relatively safe in that one’s interlocutors are less likely to get the wrong message and try to make an inappropriate advance. (Let’s face it — it’s difficult for a creepy stalker to inappropriately hit on someone who lives 2000 miles away and goes by a pseudonym.)
In another sense, however, frank online discussion of sex is incredibly risky. One’s co-workers or family members or associates may read these posts and comments. Do I really want my co-workers and family members to know such intimate, personal details about my life? Apparently we don’t mind this risk, and that’s quite surprising. Is it that bloggernackers have a divided personality — exhibitionist and voyeuristic online; prim and sedate while at church?
Finally, I wonder what (if anything) is lost in the disjunct. It seems strange that as a group we may be willing to discuss sex, fertility, abortion, and all manner of related topics, with people who we’ve never actually met — Nate Oman and Rosalynde Welch and Adam Greenwood and even Ned Flanders — but not with our home teachers. What exactly does that say about us?
Anyway, I would elaborate further on the topic, but I’ve got to run to the store to pick up some chocolate truffles.
A belated thought that occurs to me —
I wonder how much of my own perception of Mormon norms about sex-talk comes from my gender.
I don’t talk about sex with my male or female friends. On the other hand, my wife discusses sex with her female friends. She knows all about her friends’ sex lives; oddly enough, _I_ know all about her friends’ sex lives, because she tells me. However, I don’t know a thing about my own friends’ sex lives.
Is it that there are barriers to Mormon men discussing this kind of thing? Mormon men can’t discuss sex with women friends, because we are worried about being wrongly viewed as hitting on them. Women don’t discuss sex with us, because they worry about being perceived as setting the stage for being hit on. (It is for these reasons, I think, that I would be quite uncomfortable having a one-on-one discussion about sex with some woman from the ward).
It’s even more of a minefield discussing things with other men. There is a “don’t appear gay” mandate that underlies every male-bonding conversation. As a result, any talk about sex is likely to be of the exagerated locker-room variety. Anything more personal leaves the speaker extremely vulnerable, to the “dude, don’t be gay” critique. And Mormon men are socialized to avoid at all costs anything that could possibly appear to be gay.
“And Mormon men are socialized to avoid at all costs anything that could possibly appear to be gay.”
How do you account for roadshows, then?
Mormons are perhaps the most chaste people on earth. So when marriage arrives, the floodgates are opened, so to speak….
A follow-up question (I really must learn to think these all the way through before hitting Post) —
Are there negative consequences to breaking down sex-talking barriers among Mormon men? To put it most simply — If I’m candidly discussing sex on blogs today, does that mean I’ll be picking up strange women in bars tomorrow? Or perhaps, if I’m discussing sex with Lisa today at her blog, does that mean that tomorrow I’ll be hopping on a plane to Idaho with a box of truffles? If I’m discussing same-sex marriage issues with D. today, does that mean that tomorrow I’ll be asking him on a date?
I don’t think that the consequences are necessarily so drastic. On the other hand, it makes sense that there will be some repercussions from altering a social norm. I’m not quite sure what the effects are, but it seems possible that they would be negative. (However, it is also quite possible that they will be positive, or that the net effect will be positive). How can we analyze the potential effects of the relatively candid and open sex discussions in the nacle?
I think to be noticed in this little bloggernacle world you sometimes need to be shocking and controversial. If we only made safe posts many of us would feel invisable and irrelevant and simply disappear. The anonymity helps this as well.
Absolutely last late emendation (at least, for the next five minutes) —
Is the nacle emphasis on sex discussion (and intimacy, fertility, etc) a cause or an effect?
That is, does the nacle _attract_ people already inclined to discuss sex? Or does it _create_ people who are inclined to discuss sex?
I think sex topics take off on T&S as our version of “Puritan Pornography” — a term a columnist once coined in observing how conservatives seemed to relish the chance to talk about sex (even in outraged tones) during Monicagate. :)
I have a similar experience to yours: I never ever ever talk about anything remotely close to the bedroom with other Mormon men, but somehow my wife gets way more info about others in the ward, and, of course, passes it along to me.
Sex is generally an off-limits topic among most church members who I know in real life.
I think you are correct, speaking of sex qua sex. But if you can work in a medical or childbirth angle, we shout it from the rooftops. I have been in testimony meetings in several wards where women spoke from the pulpit in detail about topics that made me blush beet red – their monthly cycles, their son’s undescended testicle (he was a 13 year old deacon at the time – try to imagine the next campout), play by play commentary on their husband’s prostate surgery and its effect on their romance. You get the idea.
#2, Russell, LOL!
I always enjoy going into senior primary and watching the 10-11 y.o. boys when the music director tries to get them to do “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”.
I’ve heard of link whoring, but I think we here at T&S have developed comment whoring to a fine art before anyone even invented the term.
My own experience tracks with what Otto is suggesting. I have several life long LDS friends with whom I am very close (all male) and though there is certainly sexual innuendo in our humor, we never talk about sex. I’m not really sure that guys do. My wife on the other hand has had several very frank conversations about sex with her LDS girl-friends though she doesn’t share the contents of the same.
Seems to me the reason this is such a popular subject here has to with the reason much else is popular here: one simply doesn’t feel comfortable discussing it in other venues. I think that as a group we LDS are hyper-sensative fitting into the vanilla mold. If there weren’t so many interesting things outside the mold there would be no need for sites such as this; we would simply discussion these things at church or with our LDS friends.
Re: #17 This was my first post, will spell check next time. :-)
Actually, ironically, I first thought Gordon’s title was “Discarding Libido” and honestly wondered how someone would go about doing such a thing.
If any of my ex-girlfriends join the church, I’m dead meat.
Ok, convert-with-a-colorful past perspective here:
When growing up in a culture where people (in real life) do not openly talk about sex, remaining chaste until marriage is expected, and pornography and racy movies are avoided (all of which are good standards) how else does one learn about sex, except by talking with friends?
Once the floodgates are opened, it is natural and normal to want to learn about something that is such a big part of life. We have big families- that mean we have sex, hopefully a lot.To experiment and try things within the bonds of your marriage is a good thing, and if talking about it to your girlfriends (or guy) make you less uncomfortable and more open, go for it. And if, because of social conditioning or social perceptions, you feel you cannot be open in person, the safe forum of the blogernacle, where you know the general population is much like yourself, is a good place to look for answers.
There are very few women friends that I have in my ward that I can talk frankly about sex to, without embarassing them. But I am comfortable talking about it, and perhaps it is because I did not grow up with the constraints of membership. (Not advisable as a longterm solution, btw)
I don’t think honest talk is a slippery slope, either. Keeping things hushed and dark creates all sorts of distortions over time. As my children grow up, in a devoutly LDS home with a sealed family, we plan on being very frank and open with them about their bodies, sex and how it all works, as they are ready to hear it.
These discussion on the ‘nacle are neither cause nor effect. They are simply a natural offshoot of being a reproducing, sexual human being, and wanting a safe place to ask/answer questions.
“I have been in testimony meetings in several wards where women spoke from the pulpit in detail about topics that made me blush beet red”
I’ve heard some interesting things in F&T Meeting, but nothing that even compares to that. I’d be interested to see whether this happens in other places.
My husband brought me this blog line to see what I thought about it. Interestingly enough, the whole women talk versus men talk in the church got me to thinking about why we might be more open.
It seems to me the older I get and the more actively involved I become in the circle of church friends, relief society and so on, that the women of the church build stronger and closer bonds through our activities than the men. We seem to rely on our womenly relations and friendships to carry us not only through the week but encompass them in every aspect of our lives whether it be the latest jello recipe or the most explicitly frank questions about sex.
I can see why the men of our church might not be as open about sex talk with the other men. They go to their priesthood meetings and Sunday school classes but probably don’t have as much other interaction as say the women of the church who have relief society, mid week activities, lunch bunch, play dates, book groups, visit teaching and enrichment nights, not to mention all the meetings for those who plan all of these activities on a weekly basis.
It’s easy to see why there’s so much more talk among the women than men who, quite frankly, if I only had interaction with once a week would be lucky to get much more then a handshake and hello.
Only speaking for myself, I talk about sex a lot because I can’t have any.
First of all, it’s Lindor balls. Not just truffles.
For the record, I’ve never discussed the intimate details of my sex life with anyone – female or male friends, and I’ve never had any of my female friends discuss their sex lives with me. Mainly, this has always been because “Meems is Mormon, We don’t want to offend her.” I think that as humans, we have a natural curiosity about sex and everything about it. I know I do! Combine that with the fear that people will think you’re a perv if you want to talk about or divulge too much info about yourself, and it’s only natural that we want to read and talk about it on the bloggernacle. Mostly, however, the bloggernaccle is a place that we can talk about sex without too much worry that it will go against gospel principles that we might encounter in the “world.” Before I was married I used to comb the LDS bookstores for gospel-centered books about sex – what was allowed what wasn’t allowed, etc. I was dying for information, but I didn’t want to read anything “nasty” that I might find in a regular bookstore! So, the bloggernacle is kind of like a Deseret bookstore…sex talk that (we imagine) won’t send us into improper places (HEY, if it’s on the bloggernacle, it must be okay!! (wink)
Dang it. Now I’m craving Lindor balls, big time. They say chocolate can substitute for sex. Can the reverse be true? Lol. Maybe I shouldn’t post this. But I wouldn’t have a problem posting about the “myth” that chocolate can sub for sex, so why am I so . . . nervous about positing the reverse, even if in half-serious jest?
Anxiety disorders, well, yeah, duh, but I think that perhaps this might be separate, at least part of it. Why IS it acceptable, or seem acceptable, to posit the first, but more risque to posit the second?
Maybe because in the first, all you are really doing is eating chocolate. In the second, well, that’s not the case. UGH. Guess I better get over my issues about, sex (I was tempted to *** that word but heck if y’all can say it, I can say it . . . I think).
If any of my ex-girlfriends join the church, Iâ€™m dead meat
When I was bishop, I sometimes wondered if LDS Family Services should hire a full-time sex education teacher. When it came time for the chastity lesson in YW and YM, I gave the lesson. Among the obvious things, I also taught that sex between a married couple was good and an important part of the process of becoming one. After her marriage, one of the Laurels thanked me for telling her that sex could be good, because all her mother taught her was that sex was bad. She said she has successfully fought her mother’s indoctrination.
P.S. My wife loves Lindor balls, but she doesn’t feel a real need for them. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean?
Floyd: ” After her marriage, one of the Laurels …” She got married while she was a Laurel? :-)
Sarebear: Yes, there is a lot of published research about how sex equates to chocolate, or in the broad sense how sex equates to food consumption. Sex can be a physical appetite or hunger, just as one hungers for food. They are both obviously physical. Both sex and eating have practical purposes and have physical/emotional pleasure associated with them. Both, if overindulged, or if done selfishly or just for pure self-pleasure can be physically and emotionally harmful. Both can be addictive. Both can be taken to extremes, which have damaging effects on the body. And in both cases, we can choose to let the body rule our spirit, or we can let our spirit rule our body, reaping the consequences of either choice.
One can often hear the lust in a person’s voice when they talk about “chawwwwwwwwwk-lut.”
At times I’ve heard adult women talk lustfully about “chawwwwwwwk-lut” and it was just as juvenile as listening to adolescent males talk about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The sexual tone of voice, the lust/desire, the giving in (or desiring to give in) to physical overindulgence is almost the same.
You know how you get innundated with catalogs for really fancy foods from October-Christmas? Around here, we call that ‘food porn.’ This after my husband walked in on me oogling a Harry and David catalog . . .
I’m really surprised at the apparently common talks about sex that other LDS women have with their friends. I’ve honestly never had a discussion about sex with other LDS women, and don’t expect to. I guess for me I value my intimate relationship with my husband so far above the friendships I have with women in the ward that it would feel like betraying, and almost destroying, that intimacy to chat about it casually with other women. I would feel totally betrayed if my husband were to talk about our sex life with other men in the ward after a basketball game or while moving someone out of the ward (EQ chat times, I guess), although the point of this post is how unlikely that is.
My common sounds more like I’m “shocked and appalled” than I meant it to. Mostly I’m just genuinely surprised. Does it bothers Kaimi that his wife’s husbands know all about he and his wife’s sex life?
Bookslinger – I’ve seen arguments on gluttony and over-indulgence pop up here and there over the last few months on the naccle.
I think the extremes you are speaking about, ARE extreme, and would be of the extent that any friends or loved ones would help the person get professional help. I do not see a love of or desire for chocolate, or for sex, or for the pleasure that either of them give, as selfish.
I just do not buy into the – You’d better watch everything you want, desire, enjoy, sensation-wise, very carefully, because it’s a fine line of being “proper”, and anything else is gluttony/over-indulgence/selfish.
The extremes are at the extreme ends of, say, a swinging metronome or pendulum, of a spectrum that covers a wide range of the ways people have different preferences, desires, strength thereof, favorites, etc.
Enjoying our senses is not an evil thing, a thing to be so tensely vigilant about that some would have us belief. Being mindful, yes, but it is not so narrow, GENERALLY, as I feel many would try to force us into.
I believe in limits, but I do not believe the corridor or path we trod between those limits is a narrow, painfully harsh, tensely vigilant place.
In regards to sex, I am speaking within the bounds of marriage; it needs to not be without that.
Anyway, my opinion and feelings differ from yours. I do thank you for your honesty and sharing your different outlook and perspective.
Interesting that you post this topic now, Kaimi. Just a couple days ago my husband said he though blogging was in some ways exhibitionist and that lurkers were voyeuristic (in general–not even with sex as the topic).
Of course it is important to be careful how we discuss sex and sexuality even on the internet. But even without sex as a topic, it’s important how we interact with those we find “attractive” even at a cyber distance. More and more people are actually beginning relationships that lead to affairs online. (I’ll look for a link to the online article I read about the changing trend in adultery. It basically said that fewer affairs are focused on the physical relationship and affairs are increasingly peer relationships that begin as friendships but become increasingly emotional before any physical intimacies begin.) I think we are naive if we believe that Mormons are less vulnerable than others to the possibility of temptation in this area.
Hi Matthew, welcome! And don’t worry–some of the smartest people around here are lousy spellers.
Dude, LisaB, you rock.
Here’s the article:
Good call on the Puritan Pornography angle. I think that explains a lot of it.
I would probably be more embarrassed except that I know I’m never going to talk to any of the EQ about this. :)
Your comment deserves a post all of its own. Thank you for bringing up that very important point – something that I had not given a lot of thought to, but which is clearly and absolutely right.
I’m not sure how the problem of overstepping friendship barriers relates to bloggernacle postings about sex. From your comment and the link, it is clear that overstepping could be a problem even if no one talked about sex. We could discuss Plato or law or whatever else all day, and participants would still run the risk of drawing too close to others.
For purposes of analyzing the question “will this potentially lead to problems,” is blog discussion of sex any more dangerous than blog discussion of sugar beets?
It seems that it could be, in a few different ways. First, it could pose problems simply because it is a discussion of sex and could pique sexual interest.
This seems perhaps less likely because as your link notes, the new generation of affairs springs not out of sexual libido but out of emotional connection.
This suggests that sex comments and posts in the bloggernacle may create potential problems not because they lead to sexual interest qua sexual interest, but because they create personal, intimate emotional connections.
Interestingly, that would suggest that not just sex posts but many others of an intimate personal nature – posts on parenting, fertility, family life, or other particularly personal joys and sorrows – might pose the same threat. (On the other hand, perhaps some such posts offer additional benefits).
I’m not sure what the end result of your comment-and-link is for either the narrow topic of talking about sex, or the broader topic of blogging in general. Perhaps we all need to run screaming from the bloggernacle. I’m still working through these thoughts. In any case, tha
Grr- comment cut out. That should read:
In any case, Lisa, thank you for a very insightful and thought-provoking comment.
Hmm, well, if the objective is to make men an women as unattractive to one another as possible, I say we should have more posts on sex! And on women’s appearances, and fashions, and gender relations, and dating habits… I almost always come away from those sorts of threads convinced that I got myself the only good man around. And I’m sure the feeling is reciprocated!
Rosalynde–THAT was funny.
Kaimi–I agree with your further comments. I guess my intent is simply to point out that not only should we be careful how we talk about sex, but what boundaries we set for ourselves more generally as individuals who have made covenants regarding fidelity–and not only those of us who are married.
As a childbirth educator, I consider myself to be relatively open about sexuality (compared to other Mormons and even generally). I think there is a difference between modesty and shame. We shouldn’t be ashamed that we are sexual beings, but we ought to give it due reverence. I think that’s why President Hinckley can say something like we can be virtuous without being prudish. (New Year’s resolution, Prudence?)
Sometimes being more open about our sexual natures makes us more rather than less careful. For instance, if I recognize that I am attracted to a guy in my ward (or on the blogs), I make a mental note to avoid being too friendly with him. I can worry less when I haven’t noticed any attraction, but should also be alert to the possibility of attraction in the other direction. Boy did I have a wake up call about that on a business trip this past year!
LisaB wrote: “. . .if I recognize that I am attracted to a guy in my ward (or on the blogs), I make a mental note to avoid being too friendly with him.”
I can sure relate to this. There is a small number of women in my life who probably find me to be cold and distant. I am playing it safe because I find these women attractive and I do not want to encourage thoughts on my part (I’m not very concerned that they would find me attractive). For this reason, I tend to hire receptionists whom I do not find attractive. I know that may not be PC, but when it comes to maintaining covenants, PC can take a hike.
LDS Social Services has a written policy forbidding its therapists from discussing sex with their clients.
Perhaps women are more likely to discuss sex with their girlfriends because (in general) they are more dissatisfied with their sex lives than men?
Kaimi–I’m not sure what is so revolutionary about the idea of caution in our extramarital relationships. Isn’t that what Pres Kimball taught long ago when he said any sharing of affection, etc. is infidelity? Isn’t this one argument in favor of exclusively male leadership in the church (the church having problems enough w/ say Bishops and RS presidents working closely)? And one reason for missionary rules like no rides with Sisters or going over to Sisters homes without their husbands or other members present? Or is it the question of how we translate these guidelines to the cyber world?
“caution in our extramarital relationships. . . ”
So what you’re saying is “don’t get caught”? :P
But in seriousness, I think you’re very right about having caution. I’m not saying that your comment is revolutionary. (We have LDSLF for that). Your point is important, though — that we should carefully watch our friendships. And I’m not exactly sure how to most effectively translate that idea to the cyber world. How much personal information sharing is too much? When does friendship become something else? I don’t know that there are simple, easy, one-size-fits-all answers. Perhaps J. Max was right, at least on the general principle; perhaps the whole endeavor is just too exhibitionist / voyeuristic for long-term stability. (I’m not saying this is the case, just that the thought occurs to me).
In any case, I thought that your comment and link were very good. We discussed a similar point over a year ago at T&S, but it’s been a while since I gave the question any sustained thought. Kudos for a strong comment which, as I said elsewhere, really deserves a post of its own.
In response to the comment: LDS Social Services has a written policy forbidding its therapists from discussing sex with their clients by Maria, this is not true. I was sexually abused as a child and a therapist referred by our bishop from LDS social services at BYU in Provo helped my husband and me to overcome some problems I was having with intimacy. We talked entirely about our sex life in depth with our therapist. The result, I am much better and it has blessed our relationship greatly to share sex regularly!!!
I personally know a therapist (my mother’s best friend from grad school) that worked at LDSSS in another Utah town (not Provo) where the written policy was absolute silence on all issues related to sex. She said that she found this policy completely ridiculous and if her clients needed to discuss intimacy issues she felt it was in the client’s best interest for her to “disregard” the SOP. So, because I am 100% confident that she wasn’t lying to me when she said this, I think that either 1)her office had its own rules, 2)anon had a particularly enlightened therapist who also chose to disregard the policy.
“I can sure relate to this. There is a small number of women in my life who probably find me to be cold and distant. I am playing it safe because I find these women attractive and I do not want to encourage thoughts on my part (Iâ€™m not very concerned that they would find me attractive). For this reason, I tend to hire receptionists whom I do not find attractive. I know that may not be PC, but when it comes to maintaining covenants, PC can take a hike.”
I am not trying to be snarky or anti here, but isn’t the opposite solution to this problem polygamy? I have a hard time being cold or distant to people, even if I find them attractive. It just goes against my personality.
“There is a small number of women in my life who probably find me to be cold and distant. I am playing it safe because I find these women attractive”
I have a sister who maintains to this day that it is *impossible* for a male (be he 5, 10, 75, married, single, divorced or gay) to be friends with a woman he doesn’t find attractive. In other words she believes men can only have eros-type love for women they don’t have blood relation to.
Anyhow I agree that much of our desire to talk sex on the blogs is because we’re uncomforatble doing it face to face with people we know. My husband and I experienced a lot of frustration early on because we got the impression that there was stuff we weren’t doing right but didn’t know where we could go to learn how without being embarrased or exposed to pornography (We eventually bought a book by an LDS author). It’s not something church leaders should ever be asked to teach (bishops have enough worry without being resposible for teaching young married couples how to have a fulfilling sex life). Parents, however, take cues from the church and often decide that any discussion of sex should be about avoiding it, and how evil it is. I think parents should be the ones we can go to with any sort of questions, but the idea of talking to our parents about sex is appaling to nearly everyone. And to many parents, the idea of their kids asking them about sex is equally appaling. I don’t think it should be that way.
Paul–By suggesting that the solution is polygamy, you are saying that the real problem is chastity and fidelity. Bogus. Marital fidelity and loyalty mean nothing if spouses can keep a look out for and even court other partners.
Here are a few things I think could indicate a problem with boundaries on the internet:
Is blogging taking away time that used to be spent with your spouse?
Do you share more of your ideas, your feelings, your day-to-day experiences with the cyber world than you share with your spouse?
Do you follow, respond exclusively or predominantly to, or look forward to responses from a particular blogger or commenter?
Have you initiated private e-mail correspondence with a blogger or commenter you are attracted to emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, or otherwise?
Do you keep knowledge of any of these occurances from your spouse?
Have you been flirtatious or used sexual innuendo on-line or by e-mail?
Have you shared personal information about your spouse either on-line or in private e-mail?
Just a few ideas.
I was scrolling quickly and this sentence blew out at me “perhaps it’s because we talk about sex all the time, anyway…” who’s we? I don’t. I gotta go back and find who said that.
forget it, I guess I was going too fast. hmmm….