Monday, December 4, 2006

sex is sacred

I remember when I was in my last year of high school that I took a sociology course. It also happened to be the same year in which I investigated and joined the LDS church. Anyway, as I noted above, I was pretty opinionated and not afraid to state my views, and a number of times I got in some trouble with the teacher of this sociology class because I argued with her position.

One of those times, as I recall, for some reason I made the assertion that Mormons believed that sex was sacred and should be reserved for marriage. I certainly believed that about heterosexual sex, though I certainly had not thought it through with respect to homosexual sex (which I tended to lump into the big pot of "sexual sin"). I also didn't really want to consider how that view jived with the times I had indulged in that "m" word activity. I guess I lumped it into the sexual sin pot, and just felt guilty all the time about it, tried hard after joining the church to avoid it, but "fell" every so often.

The "sex is sacred" idea was not, of course, unique to Mormon thought; in fact, I probably picked it up long before I was baptized, maybe from the Bible, maybe from listening to a Presbyterian church sermon (the denomination of my birth), or maybe from one of the churches I investigated in my teens. But, in any case, Mormonism certainly bought into the concept of "sex is sacred" so the idea was reinforced in my mind by repetition in class, in Ensign articles, in sacrament meeting talks, firesides, and General conference sessions.

The "sex is sacred" idea was easy for me to accept because it was so easy for me to "control" my sexual feelings towards women. Since there weren't any, it was not too hard, and I felt pretty good about that, but bad of course about those dark, unmentionable feelings that made me ashamed, deeply ashamed. The unfortunate thing is that this combination gave me I think a pretty skewed view of sexuality that I fear Mormon church leaders did not do much to rectify. Understandably, from their point of view, the emphasis had to be on preaching against illicit sex since the activity and desire for the activity of sex is pretty much inborn into all (or nearly all) of us such that we really don't need to be taught much about how good it is, just how to control it "within the bounds the Lord has set". You know, the image of passion being like lava that has to be contained lest it run amok. However, when you don't have those feelings naturally, in fact towards the opposite sex you feel the purest unsexual love you could, all that preaching against illicit sex tends to give one a false impression that by not having those sexual passions you are really quite righteous and superior. Since the gay feelings are just not possible in the LDS worldview as anything other than an aberration that can somehow or other be corrected (whether now or in the next life doesn't really make a difference), being totally chaste in the sense of being totally abstinent from sex and anything remotely connected to it becomes this ideal state for the single guy.

But that is not, I have come to realize, how most people experience sexuality, I mean most heterosexual people. They actually have passions, and passions that they have to "bridle". They are tempted; they resist or not. Chastity means, for them, not getting rid of the passions, but just keeping them in check until they can be fully expressed.

Anyway, fast forward to now. Now, I'm a semi-out gay man, no longer an active Latter-day Saint. I still have not had a sexual experience (other than the heretofore mentioned solitary type of which there has been no drought for some time ;) I know that many gay guys go through a sexual adolescence at whatever age they come out, meaning lots of experimentation, lots of different partners. Somehow, though, this is not happening to me, or rather, I haven't taken any steps to have it happen. Why?

Part of it is probably inertia, and my general shyness and insecurities. But part of it is also that, heck, I still kind of buy into the "sex is sacred" stuff. While I confess that in my fantasies threesomes and group sex seem to have a place, it doesn't mean I would actually ever do anything like that. The truth is, if I had my way, the guy who ends up being my life partner is the one and only guy I want to have sex with, ever. I don't feel a huge need to try out lots of guys, to have conquests, or whatever. I really just want to have real intimacy with one person, which includes sex as an expression of emotional, intellectual and physical attraction and affection. It's all very idealistic and high-minded sounding, but I don't know if I am being very realistic. That said, like L, I tend to resist being told that I can or cannot do something or should or should not do something because "everyone else does/does not do it". If that is the best argument one can come up with, I am generally pretty unimpresssed.

Anyway, it just seems to me that sex tends, like it or not, to carry with it a lot of heavy duty emotions, not to mention potential consequnces (even for gay men), that I think it is probably better confined to committed, long-term relationships. But I am open-minded enough to listen to alternate viewpoints on this, particularly given that I am a total innocent in this area, given my vast non-experience.


Scot said...

But part of it is also that, heck, I still kind of buy into the "sex is sacred" stuff.

Hey, I wholeheartedly believe in that stuff :-).

As I’ve said before, if there’s one thing in my life I’ve been glad to have “wasted” it’s my sexual adolescence. I’ve only ‘known’ my one and only.

It's all very idealistic and high-minded sounding, but I don't know if I am being very realistic.

I absolutely know you’re being realistic, and you’ve made my day to know one more gay guy out there is treating sex with the care it deserves (We are out here you know ;-)).

mark said...

Thanks, Scot. I really admire you for making the decision to monogamous and sticking to it. I'm sure you are right that there are other guys out there who agree with this position, but with so much advocacy for the opposite position it can seem a lonely position to take.

Scot said...

I can sympathize, but let’s change that; let’s not allow that to be the case.

[Ascending the soapbox I keep handy by my side ;-)]

For too long in the gay community our point of view was demeaned. It was tied to the moral system of our evil lurking opponents; we were “straight acting”, “sexually repressed”, some sort of self-loathing gay. Guys like me didn’t feel welcome in the activist’s tents, and certainly not in the local watering holes, and consequently we were quiet, and out of the gay community for many years.

It’s understandable how that happened, and I can’t fault anyone really, but, at least here, I see that changing, and quickly. I’m now more than welcome in the activist’s tent; the old guard is falling away and new leadership is taking hold. I see a good deal of hope in making that position not near so lonely.

I sometimes wonder if the message gets too skewed though. Like: wow look at monogamy, how noble be its practitioners! See how we stoically cage our animal urges in sacrifice… :-). That’s not really the case and I think gay kids need to see that side too. Monogamy has a value, a high value; it’s something I want, not something I tolerate or hang onto by my fingernails. For many of us, it’s not being oppressed or repressed or self-sacrificing; it’s what we want by our very makeup, just as we are gay.

I’m glad for anyone who sees that value for gay couples and says it, explains it, defends it. You will change minds and I think you’ll find there are many folks who think the same but have feared there’s something wrong with them for feeling such, some who may have just settled for the obvious. Numerous times we’ve had kids come up to us and tell us how alone they thought they were in the gay community, how important it was for them to know they were not and that they could get what they want. In short, I think the lonely position is more a problem of advertising than numbers, and that can be changed. Let’s change that.

LOL, Sorry for the rant :-).

Chris said...

I'm in the monogamy camp as well, but I refuse to condemn those gays who are not.

Scot, you were blessed to have been embraced by your family when you came out. They encouraged you on the path you have followed. And that's wonderful! But it doesn't happen that way for everyone. For many gays, some sexual exploration is, I believe, healthy. Homosexuality DOES challenge our traditional sexual mores and traditions, and that's ok.

I think far more gay men are willing to settle into monogamous relationships than we give credit for. But just like many straight people, they go through periods of exploration and even promiscuity before that. I think letting go of our Victorian sexual baggage is not such a bad thing.

Chris said...

The truth is, if I had my way, the guy who ends up being my life partner is the one and only guy I want to have sex with, ever. I don't feel a huge need to try out lots of guys, to have conquests, or whatever.

Why must it be one way or the other?

Scot said...


That’s what I get from using the soapbox again… :-)

I can see how that could have been seen in my comment but I didn’t, nor did I mean to condemn those who aren’t monogamous. In fact, I meant to take the morality out of monogamy vs. experimentation in the paragraph starting with “Sometimes I”, but my sarcasm may have botched that :-).

I was after those who attack gays who want monogamy, and minimize their nature, and tell them they can’t have that. I can only speak for my experience, but it was a real problem when I was coming out in Utah’s old gay community.

I would say there must be a caveat, though. All sex can be used unethically and must be treated carefully. The damaging aspects of sex are naturally more widespread without monogamy, but, no, not necessarily. If not being monogamous means creating unwanted children, or spreading disease, or deception, that’s a problem, and I’ll admit the times I’ve seen it used in such ways may cause me to be too strident at times.

Chris said...


I agree with everything you say. I also think that the gay community's attitudes toward sex are an understandable reaction to broad societal condemnation of homosexuality. That said, gay people who want to condemn monogamy and commitment as invalid gay lifestyle choices need to just grow the hell up.