So many talking points in here…

Here is a letter recently written by a woman (not me) to her bishop expressing concerns about the “sex talk” that he recently gave/presented. I so appreciated that someone voiced the opinions about how sexuality is presented in the church (culture, and sometimes doctrine), and how damaging it can be for women and men.
It’s a very well-written letter, and I would love to give credit to the author on here, buuuut…. anonymity is much more important in this case.

 

Bishop _______,

I am writing you in response to the lessons you gave this past Sunday for the Women’s Conference in the ward. I’ve been thinking a lot about those lessons and your points and comments and have been going over and discussing the notes that I took with Daniel and some others.

First I want to say that I respect to some degree what I think you’re trying to do, and I believe you truly feel like you have the women’s best interests at heart. I feel obligated to express my disappointment to you over several things that you taught and the way that you taught them. I tell you this in hope’s that you will reconsider some of the points you made in your lessons and clarify and/or retract some of the statements given in your presentations. I feel that several of the things you said could be spiritually and/or emotionally damaging to many of the women and I think that if you were to evaluate your points from their perspective you’d come to a similar understanding.

I felt that you overstepped your bounds as a leader of the ward and expressed viewpoints that were (a) not gospel oriented, and (b) not part of the correlated church material. Again, I appreciate that you feel you love the ward members enough to talk about some of the more sensitive issues, but I’m worried your efforts come off as being misguided and an abuse of spiritual power.

I took copious notes and will give you some examples of things that you presented that I found inappropriate for a church lesson to the women:
From the “Grace and Grit” Lesson:

The use of anecdotal jokes and quotes that denigrate men. I feel like putting down the men to build up the women and “butter them up” not only is disrespectful to the men, but also patronizing to the women. Men are not less_______ (fill in the blank) than women.
The “Morphed Agenda” slide was an immensely over-simplistic caricature of feminists. I felt that you purposely went out to gather the most radical and outrageous quotes in order to induce fear into the women. I understand that the large majority of people who identify as “feminists” aren’t man-hating, marriage wrecking, career driven people who are in competition with stay-home moms. Just like the large majority of Mormons aren’t Warren Jeffs following fundamentalist, polygamists in competition with the evil outside world for God’s good graces. It is easy to perpetuate caricatures, distorted ideas that bring out the obvious extremes. But that does not do justice to the large majority, those within a given group that are advocates for loving, honest progression for what they believe to be the good of humanity.
The statistics you used about the decline of our society due to feminism I saw again as scare tactics to convince the women of your stance.
Probably the most egregious statement in my opinion was “…freedom of choice has imprisoned women.” I am hopeful that you don’t actually want to teach that women’s equality is a detrimental thing for women and society.
The “Atlantic” article about the woman who quit her job to stay home with her struggling teens. Your comment was “It was like she thought, “Geez! I actually have to give my kids attention?!”. I know of NO woman, working inside or outside of their home that doesn’t want to give her kids attention and I highly doubt that the woman from the article would appreciate that comment. I also think that this comment implies to all the women in the ward who ARE working mothers that they must not want “to give their kids attention”.
Another issue I had with this lesson was the “Dirty Little Secret” slide. You said something to the effect of, “…the dirty little secret is that you will pass these women because you are doing whats right…” and then you went on to add, “…and when you do, you pass them like you’re riding in a Porsche!”. This comment to me basically clearly states that non-feminists, and non-careered women will be more miserable than their stay-home counterparts. And then it goes on to prey on this misery and flaunt the stay-home mom’s happiness to the others. I think you can agree with me that this is not a Christlike comment.
Overall I believe that you set up a very clear picture in which there is an “us” (the good LDS stay-home moms) and a “them” (the bad working feminists). You did more to separate and create conflict between two categories of women (both of which are represented in the ward) than you did to create support and love and understanding between these two categories. Scare tactics and a good v.s. bad dichotomy created a good portion of your lesson and I don’t feel that that is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is about nor do I feel like this message is a healthy one for a leader of a ward to be teaching to the women who trust and follow him.
Also, on a personal note, I felt like this talk may have been directed to some degree at me and/or possibly at the NBC special on the Mormons where Joanna Brooks commented on feminism in the church. And this I do not appreciate.

From the “Key to a Happy Marriage” Lesson:

The stories shared that were linked to ward members. For example, the letter from the desperate husband and the “bowel movement” story, as well as reference to 3 women divorcing in the ward. I found this to be inappropriate and far too personal to share with a group. Particularly the “bowel movement” story since you blatantly admitted to being asked to remove the story but did not. That was a disrespectful move and counter intuitive for a bishop whose ward members trust his discretion.
The Packer quote that implied that men need sex because that is what keeps them bonded to their families and willing to provide and be responsible for them. This one I don’t necessarily pin on you alone (Packer should take most the criticism for that statement) but I was disappointed that you added it to your lesson. This basically tells the women that if not for the frequent sex, their husbands wouldn’t be inclined to sticking around.
The german shephard and cat poster was disturbing. I felt like the picture and your explanation of the picture implied that men are dogs. But if they are trained enough they will stay in line, but they will still be wanting that cat. This analogy can make women feel like all their men want are other “cats”. Not a very uplifting thought, and definitely not one that motivates women to be more affectionate toward their husbands.
The thing that disturbed me the most (this time and last and I was hoping you’d remove it for this lesson) was the numbers you listed that represented the amount of women that a few celebrity men had had sex with. I feel that this presentation implied (if not out right TOLD) women that their husbands ONLY get THEM when men around them get several sexual partners throughout their lives. My debate isn’t whether this is true or not, it is whether this was a productive point to explore with the women. I believe this was a good way to play on several women’s insecurities to manipulate them into pleasing their husbands.
At least 3 times within this lesson you made a point to reiterate to the women in some form or another that if they didn’t satisfy their husbands sexual needs, than someone else would. Again, true or not, I don’t believe this is conducive to trusting, open sexual relationsips. It is definitely a fear tactic that could be used to manipulate the women.
The drumbeat statement; “Young men have a drumbeat in their minds throughout their single lives, “When I get married I get to have sex…when I get married I get to have sex…when I get married, I get to have sex…” “…I just need to hold on until a beautiful wife will let me…”. I feel this comment, as well as others like it in your lesson create a mentality where a willing wife becomes a reward for a righteous young men’s good behavior. I think this way of thinking causes young men to feel entitled to sex with their wives as well as promotes that a good wife should be ok with and even welcome the fetishization of her virginity and sexuality. If taken seriously, I could see how this could lead to spousal abuse and rape.
The standpoint that “the person who has the need trumps the person who doesn’t” is a simplistic, black and white approach to a complicated topic with many different scenarios.
The analogies on the audio clips about “work” and “exercise” comparing them with sex I felt only feeds into the mentality that sex is a chore, a “deed that must get done” (to quote your radio show hosts). I think these bad comparisons feed into women’s feelings that sex isn’t fun, or that it is dirty, and unpleasant.
In some of your closing comments you touched on pornography and infidelity and made a comment similar to, “In regards to these issues, don’t you want to be able to say “My hands are clean.” if ever something like this happens to your marriage?”. This question could lead women to understand that if their husbands have a problem with porn or infidelity than they are somehow responsible, even if they have fully done their duty in sexually satisfying their husbands. It is a slippery slope to guilt and shame. One in which no woman wins.

There were several good comments and points that you made as well that I appreciated. I appreciated your brief comments about “the Good Girl Syndrome” and your advice to the women to seek help by way of books or therapy if that was something that they were having trouble with. I also appreciated your statements on teaching our youth better messages about sex and doing away with the damaging object lessons. Unfortunately, overall I felt that those good points were undermined by the conflicting negative messages that were also given.

I hope you take these points into consideration and seek to understand where I and others are coming from in regards to these issues. Once again I am hopeful that you will reconsider your lessons and clarify and/or retract some of these damaging sentiments.

Sincerely,

________

 

[Applause] And now, for a good long discussion with the Dan-man to explore our own experiences with these implied messages given throughout young mens, young womens, and single wards 🙂

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