Sex, blah, blah, blah.

August 13, 2008 | 26 comments

On the sweetness of Mormon life.

A sacrament meeting on forgiveness, too sacred to recount. A friend in the foyer who thinks he needs legal advice.

A chastity lesson in young men’s. You teach. You wonder if you ever feel more of an ass then when you are saying “sex” over and over. You answer your own question. Yes . . . when you use euphemisms over and over. You catch yourself saying “conjugal relations.” You come to a stop. In the eyes of the priests you see sympathy.

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26 Responses to Sex, blah, blah, blah.

  1. gst on August 13, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Euphemisms make it worse. The “special hug that mommies and daddies share,” etc. Better to go clinical.

  2. Porter Rockwell on August 13, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    I usually go with “beast with two backs” when teaching YM about the law of chastity.. I usually wrap with”… to sum up.. no buttons or zippers.”

  3. Silus Grok on August 13, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    @porter: the opener took me a moment to get … but the closer escapes me completely.

    Maybe that’s good.

  4. jjohnsen on August 13, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Don’t touch any part of the body that is covered by zippers or buttons. Advice like this only works because teenagers don’t realize how easy it is to drive women crazy by kissing their neck. Or is that just my wife?

  5. annegb on August 13, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I tell my grandkids it’s against the law until you’re 25. I know they’ll figure it out, but hopefully there’ll be some residual something keeping them virgins till they’re 12.

  6. Mark B. on August 13, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    “Beast with two backs,” like most good sex euphemisms, is from Shakespeare. Othello, Act I, scene 1.


    I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter
    and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.


    Thou art a villain.


    You are–a senator.

    That last line is telling–but a subject for another post.

    No telling if Brother Shakespeare made up the “two backs” thing or heard it behind the schoolhouse when he was 13, from someone who had heard it from Methuselah.

  7. daveread on August 13, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Adam – I had a similar experience several years ago, as a bishopric member sitting in a Mia Maids class taught by your wife. Same subject. I was feeling secretly relieved that she was discussing all the embarrassing stuff. Then she blindsided me by asking me to say a few words, presumably in support. Nothing quite like talking about chastity/sex/whatever while being eyeballed by a gaggle of 15-year-old girls. I was so flustered I don’t know if I used euphemisms or not.

  8. Tim on August 13, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I don’t have a problem discussing it directly (minus euphemisms).
    But then I’ve taught health and biology to junior high and high school students. I guess practice makes perfect.

  9. Jonathan Green on August 13, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    When I gave a lesson recently, I told my quorum that teaching in a foreign language meant that I would just have to say “sex” and “penis” whenever I meant “sex” and “penis.” Some of the people attending probably figured out that I was feigning a lack of fluency in order to speak directly, although hopefully no one figured out that I really wanted an excuse to talk smutty at church.

  10. Geoff B on August 13, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Adam, I taught this same lesson on Sunday. Talk about awkward. But the priests seemed to have sympathy for me, and the bishop was there to help me stumble through. It wasn’t until afterwards that I thought of the “don’t touch a woman anywhere that a one-piece bathing suit would cover until you are married” explanation. Too late.

  11. Marianne on August 14, 2008 at 12:17 am

    As a Laurel I felt awful for our YW leader who started her lesson saying that the bishop had asked her to specifically teach a chastity lesson, well, specifically. Among us were his 2 daughters who ended up having the most naive and clueless questions, so it seemed to me he was abdicating his parental responsibility to a woman who looked at the floor, completely flushed, the entire time.

    My mom’s an RN who insisted that we call body parts and functions by their correct and clinical names. “Difficult” discussions happened at dinner. She always said that her mom’s idea of sex education was to hide a book in the linen closet and pray that you found it and she didn’t want her kids to be raised that way. So nothing she had to say to us that day was a surprise to me. I was quite well informed. (And I’d have to say that there’s nothing better to demystify and de-magic sex than a clinical discussion. Pretty much takes the allure right out of it.)

  12. Adam Greenwood on August 14, 2008 at 12:49 am

    And I’d have to say that there’s nothing better to demystify and de-magic sex than a clinical discussion.

    Is this desirable? Modern Mormonism seems to be trending towards thinking that sex is at least potentially sacramental.

  13. Carl Youngblood on August 14, 2008 at 1:05 am

    I like C.S. Lewis’ admonitions not to take sex too seriously in The Four Loves. Making it “sacramental” just seems wrong, like it’s missing some crucial aspects.

  14. Adam Greenwood on August 14, 2008 at 1:14 am

    But sexual union can be sacramental. It just seems like you can’t try to *make* it that way, anymore than you can with the standard sacraments.

  15. Lupita on August 14, 2008 at 2:20 am

    “And I’d have to say that there’s nothing better to demystify and de-magic sex than a clinical discussion.”
    I’d say that this is desirable when trying to teach children.

  16. Velska on August 14, 2008 at 8:25 am

    I agree that a “clinical” discussion, i.e. calling body parts by names found in med-school textbooks is a good way to demystify sex to teenagers. And I think they need it. The education also needs to start much earlier than puberty if it’s going to have a desired effect on them. Many teens (not all of them, for sure) take anything an authority figure tells them to be worth a shrug, nothing more.

    They also need to know that sex is one of the strongest assets a couple can have going for them. But they also need to know that it can’t always be perfect. And circumstances can even make you celibate at least for a time even if you’re married and don’t choose it. And that doesn’t mean that life is over necessarily.

    Why is it that there is such a strong aversion to using exact language when talking about sex?

  17. Tim J. on August 14, 2008 at 11:59 am

    “I tell my grandkids it’s against the law until you’re 25.”

    I had a deacon tell me that he saw two kids from his brothers high school sleeping the same tent. He asked if that was illegal. “Absolutely,” I replied. :)

  18. reese on August 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I just take a deep breath and power through it. I try to use the words that they use (within reason of course) to be as clear as possible. I can’t tell you how much confusion surrounds the word “petting” among my generation and younger.

    The first time I had to say masturbation – and then define it – I was pretty embarrassed. But I think us youth leaders have a duty to get over it. It’s shocking how many times I’ve heard, “oh. I didn’t know *that* was wrong.” I also think it’s our duty to get over it so they know they can talk to us if they need to, and so that our messages will resonate. If we look mortified by what we’re saying, than who are they more likely to come to, and for that matter, believe – us? Or that kid in the locker room who seems to know so much?

  19. JES on August 14, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    When I taught the chastity lesson for the Laurels, I brought a bowl of grapes and we sat on the floor around the bowl and snacked while we talked. I thought it made the whole thing more informal and open to discussion and more comfortable than me standing at the front of the room lecturing them.

  20. alea on August 15, 2008 at 4:50 pm


    I, almost, panicked when you started saying you brought a bowl of grapes, trying to come up with the awful object lesson that involved. I, for one, never got the point of the chewed gum, nailed board, or handled rose petals. I\’m glad the grapes were just for munching, then.

  21. Kirsten M. Christensen on August 15, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    I hope when our kids get to such a lesson in YM they will react much like Marianne (#11) did — with little (hopefully nothing) of surprise. It scares and saddens me to think of teenagers without knowledge on the basics, not to mention without confidence that they can ask trusted adults what they wish and need to know. No wonder a YM/YW teacher could feel intimidated giving such a lesson!

    Our children have been wildly inquisitive from very early on, and I am lucky to have siblings and their spouses who have tread the path before me of how to handle ‘the talk” (or ideally multiple, on-going talks). One brother and his wife recommended having a special one-on-one conversation to explain things. So we farmed little brother out to friends for an evening and my husband and I sat down together with our son (who was 8 at the time) to read and talk about a book called _Where Did I Come From?_, which has been around forever. (Lots of other books could serve the purpose, too.) He pretty much knew everything but the mechanics, so to speak, since he learned all about sperm and ovum while I was expecting #2 — just not how they got together. The conversation was very sweet and gave us plenty of opportunity to share not just the details but to let him know that it is beautiful and sacred and desirable when in the right context. He has continued to ask lots of very direct questions since, including about SSM, condoms, etc. I am so grateful he will come to us.

    I was also so grateful for the suggestion from others in my family about how to approach sharing this information with my own children, because in spite of the fact that my father was a HS biology teacher with presumably lots of practice discussing the birds and the bees in clinical terms, at home we still used cute names for most body parts and spoke openly about very little, so I had no real model.

    I’m guessing the topic of how to discuss the facts of life with children has been covered on T&S before? Just curious.

  22. Russell Arben Fox on August 15, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I’m guessing the topic of how to discuss the facts of life with children has been covered on T&S before? Just curious.

    At least once that I can remember: “Sex and Kids: A Practical Question.” There may have been other discussions that I’ve missed, though.

  23. fmhjanet on August 18, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Adam, if you look at FMH today (I know you don’t go there regularly) you’ll see I’ve been having a crapola day. This post made me smile, then giggle, then guffaw. Thanks.

    I was once asked to teach the chastity lesson to the YW. I was a 20 year old virgin back from my first year of college. Why did they ask me? The married leaders were to “shy”. And when one of the girls asked about that very taboo word, “masturbation,” I thought they would all pee their pants. It turned out OK, but yeah, I felt like a complete and total Moron.

  24. Marianne on August 22, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    #12–for Adam–most teenagers aren’t really going to be looking for a sacred experience if they decide to try out sex, they’re going to be motivated by raging hormones and curiosity. And if no one’s talked to them clearly about it, they’re going to be on the other side of the line faster than they realize. I have to say that my parents also made it clear that the experience should be sacred, married, and monogamous, and was pretty great. They’re quite affectionate. I’d have to say that open parental affection also seemed a pretty good deterrent for a teen.

  25. Scott on September 16, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    I have found that the best way to handle this with adults or teens is what I refer to as the brick wall approach. Explain what it is, when it should happen, what is acceptable, and what is not, and take questions. Most everyone over the age of 14 has at least a basic knowledge of the subject matter, unless they are numb, live in a lead cave, or are home schooled, so it makes it much easier.

    Mind you, I never got a talk from my Dad until post mission. It was kind of late in the game for that, though I had not done anything immoral. (BTW, even then it was so veiled in references, that he might as well have said nothing. I did manage to make him squirm, though :))

  26. Julie M. Smith on September 16, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Scott, you can make your point without taking cheap shots at homeschoolers.


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