Archive for category Mormonism
The tension between sexuality and religion is not news.
As a person who considers herself sex-positive, and who associates with other sex-positive people on and offline, I’m well familiar with the often-justified assessments of religion as damaging when it comes to holistic health, especially as vehicles of guilt about bodies and sexuality. The criticisms, the examinations, the tirades – I often agree with them. But I’m also left with a nagging feeling, that such categorically dismissive views on religion end up alienating people who might otherwise be allies for a saner attitude toward sex and sexuality.
Am I fan of religion? I’m not. Have I been harmed by religious dogma and hurt by those who live for and through such dogma? Oh yes, I sure have. But do I think that blasting religion is going to convince anyone that they should give up religion? I don’t. Not at all.
Perhaps the real question is: do we want to have a conversation with people who think and feel differently, or do we want to preach to the non-religious choir? It seems unlikely that anybody who feels sympathetically toward religion is going to change their mind or heart by reading someone’s angry or patronizing views on why religion is ridiculous, harmful, or wrong.
What is the first question I hear when someone learns I grew up in Utah? I bet you can guess. “Are you Mormon?”
When I saw Nicole Hardy’s piece in the New York Times, “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone” [link], about the author’s visit to Planned Parenthood as a 35-year-old virgin, my chest expanded with recognition. Yes, I thought. Yes yes yes. As I read, my pulse quickened in a rush.
The recognition was cultural, rather than directly personal. She was not telling my story. My adulthood did not include many years of celibacy. I took a different road from a similar starting place. But reading this account brought unexpected comfort and insight.
Discussions about religion and sexuality that rely on hefty doses of contempt, if not outright vitriol, leave me weary and discouraged. The underlying message usually seems to be, “if only those foolish people would wake up and shuck off the chains of silly religion, they would be free!” I find such a view frustratingly narrow.
Rachel was solemn as her face hovered between my knees.
“I see it in there, really deep.”
“What should we do?” I asked, knitting my eyebrows together.
My worry was a charade. Though we clung to the pretense, there was definitely not a small insect burrowed deep in my vagina. Rachel was prodding my folds and depths out of necessity, we told ourselves gravely. She was saving me from an imaginary skin condition caused by a nonexistent bug that she eventually “found” nestled halfway to my cervix. We pretended we weren’t pretending. We were ten.
Her voice was shrill. “Dee! What are you doing?!”
My fingers, moving rhythmically under the bedspread, stilled at the sound of her voice.
“Show me your hands,” she ordered, sitting on my small bed. A Holly Hobby doll peered from behind an oversized bonnet.
I was in trouble.
I don’t feel like convincing people of one thing or another. Maybe it’s related to my upbringing. As most people know, Mormons are all about proselytizing, about sending missionaries out into the world and getting converts for their church. When I left that church, I promised myself that I would not go to the other extreme, being anti-Mormon, thereby continuing to define myself in relationship to an institution I found unpleasant. I am uncomfortable with proselytizing, whatever the cause. Whether for atheism or veganism or masturbation or politics or a particular spiritual belief, I am uninterested in converting anyone.
Education – now that’s something else. I’ll join a celebration of veganism or masturbation or fertility-sex rites. I’ll share the joy that I’ve experienced in my new sin-free state, but I won’t try to convince someone of anything. I won’t, for example, tell religious people that they are daft or gullible or naive. What would be the point? I can’t think of a time that I ever changed my mind about something because I was told I was stupid to believe what I did. And so goes my personal philosophy on proselytizing.
Do you want to know about my underwear? I’m Mormon. Or I used to be, anyway. The question of sacred panties seems to come up when I’m around.
When asked if I ever wore the Mormon garments that seem to elicit so much fascination, I usually laugh and say, “Oh, no, I left the LDS church long before I did the ceremony to get garments.” Then I usually change the subject, because even though I know Mormonism is seen as weird and is great fodder for jokes, they are still my people. It’s sort of like talking trash about your own family, but getting riled if someone else does.