Theric rides again!
You know how sex makes me sad? I tell you how sex makes me sad. Sex makes me sad when people are talking about it and don’t think to invite me. What is that all about? Man alive. I’m an artist! Of course I want to talk about sex!
The problem is, no one wants to talk with me. In a 2009 issue of Irreantum, Bruce Jorgensen wrote a tired retread titled “Reading About Sex in Mormon Fiction — If We Can Read” which basically was the for-idiots version of his much better 1987 Dialogdue article on the topic. On Thutopia, I wrote a response to that article as part of my LDS Eros series (I’ve also written about the 1987 article) in which I pretended that Jorgensen should be reading my blog and know all about the interesting and scintillating and crazy-sexy things I’d been saying. In fact, as far as I know, I’ve had exactly one BYU professor read my blog exactly once. And if memory serves, he wasn’t interested in fictional-sex advice. So even if I am opening new doors and not just revisiting tired antiroach arguments, it doesn’t matter because I’m not part of the conversation.
But what should I say about literary sex, now that I have the BCC stage?
How about I say five short things and then open it up to the rest of you to explain what’s wrong with me?
One: Brother Joseph might have dismissed the Song of Solomon as not inspired, but I beg to differ. It might not be inspired scripture but that doesn’t mean it’s not inspired. In fact, given the importance our faith places on romantic love (and the paucity of healthy relationships well explored in scripture), I think we’re lucky to have a bit of hankypanky at all, “inspired” or not.
Two: Sex is holy. I mean — it may not have gotten an explicit shoutout in the Proclamation, but you can only be told to love your spouse so many times before you have to be rather dense not to make the conceptual leap. I think we can safely assume Mormons have sex and even that Mormons should have sex. We can even assume enthusiastic approval on the part of deity.
Three: As Jorgensen writes in his good article, in order to have a “pornographic event”, we need “three elements: a porn author, a porn text, and a porn reader . . . [although] the porn event seldom requires all three . . . it always requires one: . . . a porn reader. Porn author and porn text make the event more likely but do not inevitably guarantee it.” Pornographic physician, heal thyself. Or, in other words, that written sex is dangerous we deny not. That written sex should be abolished we deny with vigorous thrusting.
Four: Having healed ourselves (doctrinal clarification), we can now stop worrying ahead of time whether we’re dealing with a porn author or a porn text. We can just look for what is of good report and read from the best books. For my last two points, let’s look at a couple examples. First, Todd Robert Peterson’s novella Family History which opens with a tale of hot Las Vegas sex, written by a convert who asks his son to destroy it without reading. (Son doesn’t, natch, though he is suitably shocked.) His mother says: “These stories don’t get told much in our church, David. We want stories of success without having to hear about the struggles of sin. . . . There has to be an opposition in all things, otherwise we could not be redeemed. And the opposition is part of the whole. . . . Please consider that as you write our history. Please record all of us. Let our lives be of use.” The erotic experiences of life are part of our history (and not just the sinful Vegas eroticism mentioned here — holy sex is also part of our reality). Besides, regardless of what the sexual actions of characters are, the real question to ask the story is: Are the consequences of those actions true? Using that as a guide, the answer in this story is yes. And the result is beautiful, artful, responsible, artilegitimate, holy.
Five: My second example is from a Mormon author who never thought Mormons would read her books and gets a little uncomfortable with how I’m always trying to sell her work to our fellow Saints. Magdalene by Moriah Jovan (note disclaimer regarding this book here) might be the best Mormon novel published this year. Probably is. But besides the fact that it’s a good read, it is also accurate. Sure, it’s a romance. It starts with a widower bishop (why are these so common in our fiction?) who falls in love with a former prostitute (why not?) and then all sorts of things happen. Believable and fantastic at the same time. You will see Mormons you know — both the type you love and the sort you rather with would disappear. Even the parts I was skeptical of are true (eg, the church-disciplinarian letter was copied directly from a real one sent to a mutual acquaintance). This is the rare novel, aimed at a national audience, that tells Mormons like we are. Also, to get back on topic, it’s loaded with sex. The first half is a Meyersesque erotics of abstinence, but that ain’t so in the second half. There’s all kind of real sex here. And it’s not wasteful or gratuitous. This sex leads to genuine character development that could not have happened any other way. And think about it: doesn’t sex lead to character development that doesn’t happen any other way? You bet it does. Plus, Magdalene is an allegory for the Atonement, so, really, it’s got something for everyone.
Okay. As promised. Tell me why I’m wrong.