Monday, February 2, 2015

Guest Post

Friends, family, enemies, everyone. This is a paper my cousin wrote. He is brilliant and also one of my favorite people in all the world. Enjoy.

The Defective Provo Dating Game

Walking around BYU campus and going to social activities in Provo, I see something interesting to me. It is almost as if we have separated our religious lives and social lives to the point of living two moral codes that have become almost entirely distinct. I think, really, that Provo is an amazing place. There are many things that make it incredible, but despite it all, Provo dating has worsened and it needs to change.
Here we go... sometimes as human beings we act in a certain way because it is commonly accepted, or because “everyone else is doing it.” It’s a familiar idea, and actually anciently it had major advantages and played a huge role in our survival as a species. Learning to fit in protected us and helped us stick together. Unfortunately, however, this same desire to be a part of a group can cause us to adopt certain behaviors and stereotypes that we otherwise wouldn’t. I think that this is happening too much in the Provo dating culture. 
There seems to be a huge lessening of morality in our social lives. An example would be people who are taking or blessing the sacrament on Sunday after being up till one o’clock in the apartments of the opposite gender “making out.” 
Weaknesses are real, and we should recognize them. We should be understanding and loving of everyone who makes mistakes, (ourselves included) but I think it’s a real problem when something like this happens and we all pretend like it isn't wrong. It seems that just because there isn’t a clear rule about something than it's “allowed” and alright. To me that's a terrible misconception. 
Instead of talking about the obvious infraction of the honor code, let's focus on the “blurry line” of passionate kissing. On lds.org it says, “The phrase “passionate kissing” in For the Strength of Youth ([2011], 36) has to do with the kind of kissing that goes well beyond a peck on the cheek or briefly touching lips. It’s more intense and lasts longer than a brief kiss, and it’s often a step along the path to more serious kinds of physical intimacy, which is why you are warned against it before you’re married.” However you put it, what we recognize as “making out” is passionate kissing. It is exactly what is being referenced here.
Individual opinions will vary, but speaking plainly, “making out” almost always stimulates sexual arousal. For those who believe they are the exception, I have this question: why even risk it? The site goes on to say, "For the kind of dating and relationships you should be experiencing before marriage, it’s wise to hold back with your kisses, especially kisses on the lips." That seems straightforward enough for me.
But even if it’s not, you can’t really call that love. Not at all. Love is respect, and self-sacrifice, not dancing the line between acceptability and sin. It is true that the activities that cause sexual arousal are different for each person. It is more challenging for some to control thoughts than others, but true love is always erring on the safe side. No one can say that breaking an honor code rule, or going against the guidelines of the prophets is “alright for some people,” just because of our genetic variation. The young adults of Provo are spectacular, and I really think that we are above pretending like making-out is totally acceptable.
Psychologytoday.com says that "the more 'intimate' open-mouth, tongue -included type of kissing[...]can also lead to arousal and sex. Passionate make-outs are often necessary (and effective) precursors to further physical intimacy." I agree with that. Passionate kissing is very sexual in nature. It has a time and a place, of course, but that time and place is not before marriage. I think that there are ways that we can rise above this.
Something else, which has become another needless burden to daters everywhere, is the mortal fear that we all seem to share of “awkwardness.” It seems that nothing were so terrible, and no experience as painful as something awkward. We talk about it, we run from it, but still it seems to dominate everything. There perhaps is a time and place for awkwardness, such as in jokes and entertainment, but I think we've allowed it to grow into an outrageous challenge to our social lives. 
For example. Why do we have to avoid old girlfriends or boyfriends at all costs so that no one feels awkward? Doesn’t that just feel wrong? I know it can be really uncomfortable, but I think It’s an invented rule of society that we could choose not to follow. In other cultures the word “awkward” doesn’t even exist, and this actually leads to less of these situations. Why do we talk about it so much, and avoid it so much, and do nothing to get rid of it? Or defeat it? Running away from something is not a victory. It may take courage and social aptitude, but we can face an awkward situation and maturely overcome it, sometimes just by taking a step back and laughing at it. I am convinced that with the right amount of love and eternal perspective, no situation could make us feel awkward. It’s not easy, and there situations where it's hard to not feel uncomfortable, but I think we can do something to get through it and not let it control us so much.
The worst part though, is that this leads to more harmful things that are going on. Elder Holland gave a speech awhile back to BYU. He spoke of his wife, and said that "To impair or impede her in any way for my gain or vanity or emotional mastery over her should disqualify me on the spot to be her husband." Emotional mastery over someone would be a perfect way of describing the feeling that some seek as they exploit and manipulate members of the opposite gender. There is no place for deception in dating. Any action to "make someone jealous" or as a retaliation of a "really bad break-up" would fall into this category. Forgiving someone, but never wanting to see them again, is not real forgiveness. Aren’t we all shooting for The Celestial Kingdom anyway? Wouldn’t it be best to work out our differences here? Weakness is allowing someone’s actions to stop us from loving them. True strength is real forgiveness and love. Elder Holland goes on to say that, "No serious courtship or engagement or marriage is worth the name if we do not fully invest all that we have in it." I argue that as brilliant members of a brilliant university, if we were putting our all into our dating relationships, it would not be in the defective, difficult state that it is now. We are all capable of much, much more.
A word to the sisters: I think that you are all amazing, but remember that the duty of having a celestial dating atmosphere is the responsibility of both genders. When inappropriate things happen, both are at fault. I see a lot of girls that, because of a low self-image, they make their relationship almost an object of worship. They feel that if they are not in a relationship, they aren’t worth anything. Remember this: true worth comes through remembering that Christ loves you. A relationship is not the answer to all your problems, and if it becomes that for you, it will never be healthy.
And guys, know that any activity on any level aimed toward inappropriate pleasure or self-interest is always and absolutely a trademark of an enemy of womanhood. Respect and love are transformers of mankind. Through self-control and real reverence toward your sisters, you will become something greater. The earth is in need of heroes. There's a real shortage of them. This world is incredible because it is a place where ordinary people can become incredible.
What would a place look like that ran completely on love? How would it be to have a dating atmosphere that is honest, open, and where everyone had the same goals? For this to happen, all of us have to change. Not just the “Provo All-Stars,” but everyone.
Once I overheard someone asking someone else about a joke. The person said, “No, I can’t tell it, it’s not super appropriate.” 
The other asked, “Well, is it funny?” 
Wait, just because something is funny, means it doesn’t matter if it is appropriate? I think that is a really sad and really dangerous idea.
I would like to end with one more Holland quote, "You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Or, to phrase that more positively, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness for you and for your sweetheart."
I add my words to his. We all have so much brilliant potential here. I’ve really seen it, and as far as I'm concerned, the only way we can untangle the dating scene in Provo is to tie it to our discipleship, and it needs to be for real.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

lol i liked how he pieced out the individual gendered problems at the end

not

this is meaningless, unorganized nonsens, more olivia please!

Rae said...

“I see a lot of girls that, because of a low self-image, they make their relationship almost an object of worship. They feel that if they are not in a relationship, they aren’t worth anything.”

Hmm, wonder if this is because church culture almost exclusively emphasizes women’s roles in relation to others, namely men: your divine purpose is to be a wife and mother. Maybe hearing this view on the worth and role of women has lasting, negative effects on women's emotional and mental state?? I wonder if this gendered power imbalance ever leads to the sexual coercion of women, causing "inappropriate" (read: abusive) things to happen in the LDS dating scene, as the text states? Hmm, perhaps the complete stripping of women’s autonomy, individual worth and power has something, just something, to do with the fact that so many Mormon women have such low self-esteem and poor self-image??! I wonder if that’s why so many of them feel worthless if they aren’t connected to a man via a romantic relationship?

Some critical thinking on these issues is needed not only in this article, but in the LDS community at large.

oliviakaytalley said...

Rae, I appreciate your input, however I must respectfully contest your point. The idea of a girl finding her identity from a relationship is not exclusive to the LDS culture. I grew up where the Church was very small, the all the people I hung out with were not members. The same identity crisis was present among them. As a life long member, I must say that I have never felt repressed as a woman. In fact, all my confidence and self worth are rooted in my knowledge that I am a daughter of God and that I have the agency to be whatever I want, along with the potential to be as God. There is nothing imbalanced or negative about that

Rae said...

The sentiment above is certainly not unique to LDS church culture, but that does not remove the church's complicity in these matters. It is not just churches that enforce the idea that a woman's worth is tied to her relationships with men; it pretty much permeates all contemporary culture--contemporary culture is extremely misogynistic, so there's no surprise there. Individuals as well as institutions like the church should work together to remove obstacles to healthy senses of self-worth by condoning the inherent value of individuals rather than the value of certain kinds of human relationships, since these inevitably involve a power balance. This struggle is unique to women in this sense, for reasons mentioned above. Men are entirely worthy on their own, but women require a male presence for full worthiness in many church rites and requirements. Additionally, just because you personally do not "feel repressed" does not invalidate the countless stories of LDS women who do feel "repressed", mistreated, and undervalued compared to their male peers, try as you might.

Furthermore, if LDS culture does in fact root women's self-worth and confidence in "knowledge that [one] is a daughter of God" and not in their ties to priesthood-holding men, then why do you have an entire blog dedicated to your courtship escapades and attempts to secure one of these coveted relationships?

oliviakaytalley said...

I actually started this blog because I have more ridiculous dating stories than most people. And though my confidence lies in my knowledge of the gospel, that does not negate the fact that I want to get married. I am perfectly happy being single. But I love being in love, and I want to find someone to love forever. Which is not a misogynistic ideal.

1 Corinthians 11:11 Neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord.

I'm not sure where the idea has stemmed from that a woman can only be happy with a man, but a man is just fine without a woman. Both do need each other to achieve the highest degree of celestial glory. That being said, my cousin actually stated that unless a person finds confidence in the love of Christ, they will never find true happiness in a relationship. That means everyone, women and men. This gospel teaches us how to find true happiness. That is it's purpose. If women feel offended by principles taught, and feel repressed, that is how they feel. I won't negate that they feel that way. I do however feel that those women do not understand this gospel, and I would encourage them to read the scriptures and talk with our Father in Heaven in earnest prayer, because He will certainly bring peace to the truly penitent. Questions and doubts are welcomed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, for we are here to learn. After all, the Church was restored because of a question.

Claire Monson said...

I just think its funny the way you always use "repressed". Like sexually repressed. Get it? Its unbelievable to me that fully grown adults are having serious conversations about whether or not they exemplify perfect chastity, crying out to their peers in disgust and disappointment (and jealousy?).

I think women in the church would say they're oppressed, not repressed. Repressed doesn't do it justice.

Jonah Hansen said...

The author hates women. Plain and simple.

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