Toward a Mormon Lesbian Theology
Citing a Feminist Mormon Housewives conversation, Mohohawaii recently wrote about how LDS women are made responsible for LDS mens sexuality. The Mormon woman is expected not to inflame male passions by underdressing or being overly flirtatious. Female modesty he writes, affirms the existence of male sexuality only. He quotes a Mormon women who felt guilty for simply wanting an orgasm during a faithful marriage of 20 years.
At the end of Mohohawaiis post, he notes that this is one of the ways that patriarchal nature of LDS culture oppresses women and gay people. That is, it takes their sexuality away from them. It doesnt allow a gay person to be a gay person (insofar as sexuality is a determinant of a gay person) or a woman to be a woman (insofar as her sexuality is determinant of her).
However, I would argue that it is not patriarchy, per se, that does this at least, the gay part. The ancient Greeks were a very patriarchal culture, and yet they were quite gay. Mens sexuality in ancient Greece was supreme, but womens sexuality was still rather oppressed. So, I would say that the problem in the Church is actually one of heteropatriarchy, and not just patriarchy alone.
The logic of male passions in the Church actually does carry over into queer sexuality for men. Whenever Church leaders talk about same-gender attraction, they always talk about men, boys, males. Its the consideration of a son who should keep his “passions” in check (his “natural man”); occasionally, but not often, also a father or husband: whether we’re talking about pornography or adultery. There is some consideration of the mans wife: the mixed-orientation marriage, but only as she relates to the man.
For instance, in a 2006 interview, Dallin Oaks noted that Hinckleys statement in the late 1980s that marriage should not be thought about as a cure for same-gender attraction was for the purposes of not putting at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Part of this, I would assume, had to do with Carol Lynn Pearsons 1986 book Goodbye I Love You which made clear that HIV could get into LDS marriages as a result of selfish male passions (I say “selfish” here, because that’s how it ultimately got interpreted by church leaders). I would hope that the other part had to do with Church leaders acknowledging that a heterosexual LDS woman ought to enter a marriage with a knowledge that her husband will want to have sex with her not just to reproduce, but to have passionate, orgasm-inducing heterosexual sex (for both partners). The 1990s did, if we remember, see an addition to the Handbook of Instructions that sex includes the purposes of “strengthening the bond of marriage.” But clearly, there’s still a long way to go in terms of freeing women’s passions.
Obviously in this discourse, the Mormon lesbian is absent. The Mormon lesbian (or lesbianism…however you want to think about it) continues to be subjugated under the auspices of “female modesty.” Whereas the same-sex attracted male is expected to keep his “passions” in check, the lesbian is written out of existence. Insofar as she does exist, she is made invisible, more than her heterosexual sisters. Thus I think a Mormon lesbian theology is important to unravel the problems going on here.
Let’s consider Boyd Packers idea in the 1970s that homosexuality is caused by a subtle form of selfishness. This notion might seem obsolete, but actually many, many Mormons would still argue that acting on ones attractions outside of marriage is, in fact, selfish (regardless of one’s sexuality). Packers logic thrives.
In the 1990s, however, the public began to see lesbian mothers. Lesbians as mothers who are not selfish. (I think some 35% of lesbian couples are raising kids.)
Church leaders don’t know how to talk about lesbianism, because they don’t know how to talk about female sexuality. But to simply recognize the lesbian household as a family worthy of church membership would automatically open the door to reconsiderations of the following:
(1) the relationship of an LDS woman’s sexuality to that of an LDS man’s (ie., female modesty vs. male passions),
(2) the homosex as selfish thing, and
(3) female ordination.
Or I guess the Church can continue to be heteropatriarchal — but eventually this will lead to an implosion is my guess.
– This “female modesty” vs “male passions” thing gets used to explain promiscuity in gay men. In one of Dean Byrd’s books, he argues that gay men are promiscuous because there are no women present to tame them. He leaves out the fact that a lot of men (gay or otherwise) are monogamously-minded and that a lot of women (gay or otherwise) are promiscuous.
– A Mormon lesbian on YouTube notes that the nature of lesbianism is pretty simple to understand. During her mission she found herself at a lesbian household. On their wall, was this picture. She thought: “Oh, I’m a lesbian.” And that was that. =D