Ignorance =/= Virtue

21 May

In laying some groundwork here, I should let you know a bit about me: divorced mother of four, in my thirties, a few misspent youthful years, active member of my ward and community, PTA mom. Yes, I hold a temple recommend, if you need the gold-standard in how to measure me. I speak up in church, and in my life, but am careful with my friends’ feelings and confidences. Several of those friends, after whispered conversations around my kitchen table, suggested a forum for discussing sex in a context for Latter-day Saints would be welcome. Hence, this blog.

As Latter-day Saints, and particularly women, we carry a lot on our shoulders. We are taught, from our earliest memories, to guard our virtue (whatever that means to a five-year old) and to be Good Girls, at all costs. A lot of our mothers were so uncomfortable talking about sex that they couldn’t even say the word. Couple the clear discomfort our mothers felt with the euphemistic double-speak we heard in Young Women (anyone even know what “petting” meant, especially when delivered by a sister in sensible shoes who was blushing furiously?) and we have a molotov cocktail for sexual confusion and disfunction.

Then, after guarding our hymens with a vengeance, we get married. Some of our mothers actually may have given us a short, uncomfortable talk. If you have a mom or sister who did more than that- go thank her now. A few of us actually went into our wedding nights almost ignorant of what was to take place. One friend’s mother told her to “close her eyes, it wouldn’t last long”. I wish I was kidding. So what we have here is a perfect storm of women perpetuating a cycle of chosen cloistering. Why?

I think it has something to do with fear of the unknown. We know pornography is bad (more on that later), we know sex outside of marriage is bad (more on that, too), we know good girls don’t (whatever they don’t do, we are curious) and we fear even asking questions about our bodies and how they work because that would be- A) mortifying and- B) mean we weren’t Good.

Mormon women are particularly vulnerable to the fairytale images of being swept off our feet and into the arms of Prince Charming (who happens to be an RM with a strong testimony and pioneer roots). We keep our physical, sexual selves locked in a tower away from the world until we make it to the temple. But then what? We hand ourselves over to our newly minted husbands, and our sexuality goes from being utterly denied to belonging to a someone else. So many of us are conditioned in this pattern that we don’t even see it as a problem. It’s romantic, right? to have someone take control of our desires- desire we might feel guilty for even having- and hand it over to our big, strong men. What a sweet idea. For a little girl.

And that’s part of the problem.

Ignorance about our own physicality, our bodies, how they work and what they were made to do, is not chastity. It is not virtue. It’s foolish. And it’s time to get over it. Our sexuality (or lack thereof) is not the responsibility of anyone else. Women are not treasure chests waiting passively for a man to find our magical key and open us- that’s the little girl fairytale.  That’s the woman-child wanting someone else to take from her what she secretly desires but fearfully will not claim for herself. It’s time to stop.

So let’s get comfortable with sex. Let’s get comfortable and confident in the amazing things our bodies can (and were meant to) do. Don’t be like my good girlfriend, who on the eve of her daughter’s wedding stood in my kitchen and whispered to me “Do you know that Heavenly Father made the clitoris?” It was all I could do not to laugh- I know it was the first time the word “clitoris” had ever passed her lips, but an interesting conversation followed. So grab a diet Coke and pull up a chair- we’re gonna have some open, fun, honest conversations here, too. Welcome to my kitchen table…

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8 Responses to “Ignorance =/= Virtue”

  1. elizaswife May 22, 2011 at 12:54 am #

    whoo boy. yes let’s do this 🙂

  2. Lucinda M. May 22, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    I like your kitchen table.

  3. sylvialyon June 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Comfortable and Confident in the house!

  4. Amelia July 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Beautifully put, Fanny A. I think this should be required reading for all Mormon women (and men).

  5. Astonished December 7, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    Tbh, you could have gown up in a home where you were molested, your father left porno lying around or you could have seen your mom drunk and having sex with a string of boyfriends

    Lot’s of non-member girls get the advice to close their eyes, it’ll be over soon, and a non-existent parent sex talk. There is ocean of self help lit on the subject. Hardly an LDS phenomenon.

    What age are you supposed to be taught everything about sex, and by who? Been googling a while, no consensus.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. finding my clitoris « Missionary Position - May 22, 2011

    […] was brought to mind reading Fanny’s excellent post on ignorance and virtue, and wincing especially at the “close her eyes, it wouldn’t last long” […]

  2. Know Your Body « Missionary Position - June 7, 2011

    […] before marriage is a lack of comfort with and a confusion over our own bodies. As I said in my first post, virtue does not equal ignorance, yet too often in practice, we equate practical, real knowledge of our sexual bodies with […]

  3. Another new blog! « excelling at mediocrity - June 7, 2011

    […] follows-up with: Ignorance about our own physicality, our bodies, how they work and what they were made to do, […]

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