In all the hooplah over gay marriage in California, I’ve had an interesting time in the Bloggernacle. Something I’ve suspected for a long time has been confirmed for me. It is an ugly part of Mormon culture that to me is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but oh so prevalent among its believers. Part of the problem is that, culturally speaking, it seems so counterintuitive. It seems like its outward manifestation is right, but I believe the underlying issues are all wrong.
I can’t even begin to cite all of the evidence, but I hope that once I describe it, you’ll see what I mean. An example of this appeared on another blog in a story about a man scratching another man’s back in church. Now, the story isn’t the example; the reaction is, or at least some of it.
There is a reaction among some Mormons to any sign of affection between men who aren’t related to each other that I can only describe as dirty-minded. It is so prevalent among men in the church as I’ve observed that I can’t help but wonder where it comes from. Some people see a man scratching another’s back and call it refreshing. Others see it and call it foreplay.
One of the funniest comments on that post, #110, makes fun of the idea that one man scratching another’s back is foreplay. The comment in response said that the commenter had a wooden back-scratcher and would have to go talk to the bishop.
I see so many other pieces of evidence that the most strictly conservative element in the Church often betrays themselves to have fairly dirty minds. Worst of all, it is especially disappointing when their expectations impact me. At the group I operate, we hug each other before and after the meetings. Our straight male missionaries get involved too. We also allow priesthood leaders to visit. One commented after a visit, “I admit I was a little bothered by the hugging. Isn’t that the kind of thing you’re trying to avoid?” Trying to avoid a hug? There was a day when I avoided them like the plague. Now, I’ve been called Hugasaurus Rex and like them from anyone.
Then there are the men who insist on giving me only handshakes. Anything more might turn me on, I suppose. Such men are not only dirty-minded, but grossly conceited. There was the member of the high council who saw me in the locker room at the gym and grabbed a towel to hide his privates and the ward mission leader who saw me in the temple men’s locker room and panicked when I walked by his stall. Dirty-minded and certain they had what it took to turn me on!
I shouldn’t be surprised. The prevalence of pornography and sexual addiction among Mormon men is growing. Eight years ago when I moved here, there were no church-sponsored groups for men struggling with pornography addiction. Now there are several. The local director of LDS Family Services told me it was the #1 issue for men coming to the agency. About ten years ago, I founded Clean-LDS, a resource for Latter-day Saint men struggling with pornography addiction. I also operate LDSR.org for a similar population. Though I don’t struggle with pornography problems myself, some of the men who have come to me for help were bishops, stake presidents, and members of the high council.
My same-sex attraction is not usually visual. Pornography doesn’t attract me. The sight of a naked man in a locker room doesn’t get me aroused, though I’ll admit that I probably enjoy a good-looking man more than most men do. I think clothed is much more alluring than nudity. If it stirs up anything in me, it’s loneliness. My struggles have mainly to do with relationships and fantasies about them. It takes me a bit of time and lots of interaction before same-sex attraction becomes an issue for me with the men in my life.
So, if you know me in person, don’t be afraid to give me a hug or scratch my back. I promise not to have an embarassing physical reaction to it. If you’re worried about it, I have a small piece of advice. “Don’t flatter yourself.”