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Five Things

You may not have noticed. In these posts, I have avoided the mention of negative aspects of the things I am grateful for. It is really easy to fall into the mode of “This thing over here is pretty crappy, but I’m grateful for it because…”. That seems contrary to what I’m trying to achieve: more openness to the good things in my life.

So, I try to never use the word “but” when expressing gratitude. Instead, I focus solely on the parts that I’m thankful for.

  1. LDS Church, thank you for introducing me to many good people. There are worse ways to start out in life than being surrounded by people who try hard to do what they see as the right thing and who repeatedly emphasize how important it is to know the truth.
  2. Thank you to my employer. I am grateful for the means to consistently put food in front of my family.
  3. To my daughters, thank you for teaching me what it means to be a human being.
  4. To the authors of Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex, but Were Afraid They’d Ask, thank you for giving me a more reasoned, accepting view of my own sexual development. It’s good to know that I grew up rather typically. I’m sure my daughters will also have reason to thank you in years to come.
  5. I am grateful for the chance to get good sleep. For this, I mostly have to thank myself. It’s up to me to make the most of the opportunities I have.

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Sexual Epidemic

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.—Oscar Wilde

I accept that idea with some skepticism. It contains a grain of truth, especially when we create the taboo that tempts us. We all know the power of the forbidden fruit. Tell any one of us that we can’t do something, and suddenly it tempts us.

In The Natural History of Alcoholism, Dr. George E. Vaillant found that cultures which forbid children from drinking and condone adult drunkenness (e.g. Ireland) have much higher incidence of alcoholism than cultures which allow children to occasionally sample alcohol and which look down upon adult drunkenness (e.g. Italy). Further, children from families who forbid drinking at the dinner table but the adults drink elsewhere are seven times more likely to become alcoholics than children who grew up with adults drinking at the dinner table and drunkenness was forbidden.

(I wonder about the incidence of alcoholism among those who completely forbid alcohol.)

What I take away from that study is that in cultures where drinking will take place, it is critical that adults model moderation and make alcohol an ordinary part of life. Making alcohol a rite of passage or a secret pleasure for adults only makes alcoholism more likely.

I want to make a connection to our culture’s attitudes toward sex. I don’t have a study to cite. I have only my own experience of growing up in a culture that treats nudity and sexuality as secret rites of passage and of later rejecting those notions. We display these attitudes everywhere: we label erotic materials as “adult”, you can’t see a woman’s bare breast in a movie until you are 17, and we allow ourselves to be distracted from two wars by a few seconds of Janet Jackson’s nipple because we’re worried that children might have see it. We seem to believe that children would be asexual if not exposed to adult sexuality.

The church of my youth took this further. The LDS church taught me that I shouldn’t allow myself to express my sexuality in any meaningful way until I was a married adult. They made even sexual thoughts taboo. No wonder then that members of that culture have dysfunctional relationships with sexuality. Abuse of pornography runs rampant within the church.

I commend the LDS church leadership for addressing this issue, yet their strategy saddens me:

On the other hand, however—and extremely alarming—are the reports of the number of individuals who are utilizing the Internet for evil and degrading purposes, the viewing of pornography being the most prevalent of these purposes. My brothers and sisters, involvement in such will literally destroy the spirit. Be strong. Be clean. Avoid such degrading and destructive types of content at all costs—wherever they may be! I sound this warning to everyone, everywhere.…

My beloved friends, under no circumstances allow yourselves to become trapped in the viewing of pornography, one of the most effective of Satan’s enticements. And if you have allowed yourself to become involved in this behavior, cease now. Seek the help you need to overcome and to change the direction of your life. Take the steps necessary to get back on the strait and narrow, and then stay there. (Thomas Monson, April 2009 General Conference)

They think it best to heap on more fear and guilt for being a sexual being before you are married. The LDS—and American—fascination with sex results from a perverse set of mixed messages. I fell prey to that fascination as a child and only recently escaped. I appreciate that many of us believe we should protect children from their sexuality while (married) adults can properly enjoy sexuality away from their fragile eyes. But I see an analogy to the cultures that have high levels of alcoholism.

I recently rejected that culture and its mixed messages too. I learned to be titillated by sexual material—a healthy human response—and yet to avoid being swept away by guilt or fear. In truth, sexuality has lost some of its naughty savor as it became an ordinary part of my life enjoyed in moderation.

I suggest that we change our messages about sex to the next generation. Rather than sending them the message that seeing adult nudity is too dangerous for children, we should make nudity perfectly ordinary. I don’t foresee becoming a nudist, but viewing fine art nudes—along with other fine arts—could become an ordinary, nourishing part of childhood. We can divorce nudity from sexuality.

Likewise, we could give balanced information about sexuality and its consequences instead of short, uncomfortable, shamed discussions or over-the-top portrayals of sex in the movies. What our children need is real information.

If pornography becomes epidemic despite all our efforts, we must conclude that what we’re doing doesn’t work. We need to set aside our ideologies and ask ourselves what helps our children to grow up healthy and happy. Perhaps it is time to become more comfortable with sexuality, teaching our children through our examples how to enjoy it responsibly.

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What do Mormons like more than Jello desserts?

We have further evidence that it is the red states (if you’ll forgive me for being so 2004) who are the biggest subscribers to porn. Utah tops the chart. As I’ve long said, being ashamed of sex really whets the appetite. :)

I’m being a little flippant here, but this statistic points to the sad truth that many of us live with unnecessary shame. Being ashamed of something that can be so beautiful and healthy as sex doesn’t help anyone.

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Raped By a Beauty Queen

I thought that story the other missionaries told me was an urban legend, but it was true. A former cheerleader and beauty queen kidnapped a Mormon missionary, chained him to a bed, and raped him repeatedly back in 1977. You can’t blame me for thinking it was just a fantasy. I imagine many Mormon missionaries would love to have sex with a beauty queen and yet remain blameless. “I swear I had no choice!”

Disclaimer: I am in no way making light of the serious issue of women raping men which can be devastating, no matter how seriously hot it seems.

(via Dancing With Crazy)

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Where Are Joseph’s Children?

If Joseph Smith had dozens of acknowledged wives and yet no children except with his first wife, it’s natural to ask why.

One possible explanation is that Joseph Smith didn’t have sex with his plural wives. According to sworn testimony of some of his wives, this is not the case.

Another explanation is that Smith did in fact have such children that aren’t publicly acknowledged because the children go by other names (e.g. by the name of the mother’s other polyandrous husband). This seems to be the case. (ibid)

Yet another explanation for the relative scarcity of children is that abortion was practiced in Nauvoo (though the impartiality of the witnesses for this is doubtful).

I honestly don’t have any firm conclusions about what went on between Smith and his women. It’s nigh on impossible to know. Of one thing I am confident: the history of Joseph Smith is not as clear and pure as LDS sunday school lessons would have us believe. While it is possible that Joseph Smith was above reproach, the evidence seems to me to weigh more heavily in the other direction. I tend to believe that Smith simply fits the oft repeated archetype of cult leader taking sexual liberties with his followers.[1] [2] [3] It is certainly the simpler explanation when compared with angelic visitors and divine commandments to wed other men’s wives.

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