This is a guest post from contributor Ken Melvoin-Berg
Ken Melvoin-Berg owns Weird Chicago Tours and the Midwest’s premier S&M Dungeon, The Studio. As a Lecturer and Sexstorian, he is the creator of On The Edge (a lecture/film series on BDSM). In addition to authoring 14 books on various subjects, Ken edits and writes numerous articles on sexuality.
He travels around the world teaching kink awareness to various private groups and continually develops new kink-friendly/sex positive classes.
Ken is responsible for the infamous Northwestern University Fucksaw controversy while teaching his class, Networking for Kinky People. Sunny Megatron is his partner in crime and perverted adventures.
I am an Atheist. I believe in science and what I can prove. I do not believe in forcing my lack of spirituality on others. Whatever helps us cope in this fucked up angry world is a good thing if it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Right?
Many know me as a kinky perverted bastard and also a huge gaming nerd. In fact, I still play Dungeons and Dragons. All the members of my core gaming group come from different backgrounds religiously, but we all get along (mostly). At our table sits a Mormon, a Muslim, a recovering Catholic, a Pagan, a Lutheran and a secular Jew Atheist (me). This got me to thinking. What are my religious friend’s sex lives all about in private. Does the Muslim get blowjobs? Does the Lutheran practice BDSM? Is the ex Catholic a swinger?
Mormons have made a lot of news lately. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, ran for President and lost. Utah the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) is the #1 state in the USA when it comes to porn purchases, porn subscriptions and online time spent viewing porn. I’m personally intrigued by the fact that they come from a polygamous background and wear holy magic underpants. This is surprising when we think of Mormons as overly virtuous, uptight puritans. Whenever I hear about someone that is personally conservative or belongs to an orthodox sex negative religion, I want to know if they get freaky behind closed doors.
Do Mormons have sex on their periods? Do they give oral or anal sex? Do they practice BDSM and spank each other when nobody is looking? Do they do it with the lights on while choking their beloved and screwing up against a wall?
I went straight the source and asked a good Mormon friend of mine. You’ll get to hear her response down below. Many of the LDS stereotypes I read about in the media were totally opposite of the values of the Mormons I know personally. They are left leaning in their politics, believe in equality for gay couples and gay marriage, drink beer etc. I was curious about their personal kink beliefs though. Many of the fundamentalist, uptight, gay bashing Mormons are actually on the fringe, like they are in any religion. But unfortunately, those fringe elements are the ones in charge of the LDS.
I have heard many of my most understanding and persecuted friends do some serious Mormon bashing without ever having had the pleasure of knowing a single solitary Mormon. For the short time you read this article, put away your hater-aid, pretend you have no personal knowledge of Mormons gay bashing, making uptight unrealistic laws, and look at them as a regular person like you or me. Some of the best people I have ever met are Mormons.
While researching this article I came across some folks that feel that The Book of Mormon gives biblical proof of BDSM acceptance by the LDS. In particular they mention parts of the book of Alma chapters 38 and 39 .These sections of the Book of Mormon rationalize BDSM, pony play and edge play as part of normal relationships for those who are in the LDS. The rest of this article is written by a Mormon woman who is sharing her point of view about the sexuality of her religion.
Poly & Kinky LDS – from a Mormon Woman
“If you know only one thing about the Mormon church, it’s probably that Mormons practiced polygamy. A man could not only marry more than one woman, he could marry her sister too! He didn’t need to stop at two or three, either, as long as the church leaders approved. Famously, Brigham Young was married 56 times, having sex with at least 16 of his wives (producing a whopping 57 children). This flagrant practice, so sexually deviant in 19th century America, probably only involved 20-30% of Mormons, but it led not only to the expulsion of Mormons from Illinois, but also to the U.S. Army being sent after them when they fled to Mexico (now Utah). Abandoning polygamy was part of the Utah Territory’s requirement to achieve statehood, but the practice continues among Fundamentalist Mormons to this day. Reports of sexual coercion of minors and incest occasionally make the news, making it hard to say how much of current polygamy is the fully consensual “Big Love” kind. It’s even harder to say what was consensual in the 19th century, because teenage marriage, female coercion and even incest were largely legal. In my own family history, one man married two sisters, and then two of his grandchildren married each other, and everyone was apparently fine with that.
While polygamy does seem to be all about male prerogative and deflowering young virgins, there’s at least some indication that women with same-sex desire took advantage of the set-up. Again drawing on my family history, there’s one case of Wife #3 and Wife #4 living for several years together and raising their children in Iowa while their husband went to Utah with Wives #1 and #2. In talking about the arrangement at the end of her life, Wife #3—my great-great-great-grandmother—called her partner her dearest bosom friend and the solace of her trials (which included being called a fallen woman by their neighbors and the threat of having her children taken from her). Given that mainstream 19th century practice expected sisters and female friends to hug and kiss each other, I think there was a great deal of physical intimacy shared by my ancestor and her partner, and I’m sure they weren’t alone. They were, incidentally, eventually moved to Utah where the husband and all four wives lived together in a big stone house, the women sharing childcare responsibilities and making woolen cloth.
The fact that Mormons were so deeply persecuted for their marriage beliefs makes their current opposition to same-sex marriage hypocritical, to say the least. But contemporary Mormon leaders have stated that: “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife” (“Family: A Proclamation,” www.lds.org). This statement is not only about eschewing polygamy, it’s also about one of the most frequently reiterated teachings of the Mormon Church: no sex outside of marriage. Obviously, if marriage is restricted to heterosexual couples, then there is no homosexuality—or at least, a no-tolerance policy for same-sex acts. The message for the gay individual is the same as for the unmarried hetero: reign in those desires and keep those zippers up! Only the date of expiration on that injunction is different. The Mormon Church really does expect unmarried members—male or female, gay or straight—to remain celibate for their entire lives, if necessary. The penalty for having sex outside of marriage? Excommunication. Yes, you have to be caught, or ratted out, but when you are, you get public humiliation and are no longer allowed to participate in church. Well, you can attend, as long as you don’t offer your opinion or lead any prayers, etc. But no communion. I’m not making this up.
I really can’t overstate how hard the Mormon leaders hit this (yeah, I guess the pun’s intended). I was once part of a congregation of several hundred college students who were asked to pledge to NEVER KISS (again) until asked to in the exchange of marital vows. No joke. The message hasn’t changed since virgin weddings were in vogue. You can only get married in the Mormon temple, where you are “sealed” to each other for this life and for eternity, if you are “sexually pure,” which in most cases means, you are a virgin. You can come back from being excommunicated, if you are good enough for long enough, and you can marry in the temple if you’re divorced, if you get the right permission. But in general, you gotta be a virgin. And if you’re a twentysomething Mormon who was planning a temple wedding but then there’s, uh, a change in venue? Well, then everyone knows you fucked up— literally.
So what about sex in marriage? The church leaders are as adamant about having kids as they are about being virginal. The following is from the “Gospel Principle: Chastity” from the official church website: “Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love within marriage.” And that’s pretty much all there is about what comes after being sexually chaste for all those years: make some babies! Oh, but if that’s not possible because you’re too old or whatever, you can still express your love through sex—as long as you’re married.
The problem is that all this emphasis on not even KISSING the companion of your life and future parent of your children is that it’s a recipe for sexual incompatibility at best and aversion therapy at worst. I know more than one newly minted Mormon couple who went straight into counseling because, after years of sexual denial and sublimation, one or both of them had developed an aversion to being naked, being touched erotically, seeing a naked penis, etc. This is certainly one reason why Mormons get divorced at higher rates than the national average. Not having a sexual clue is likely another reason. As one of my coworkers once quipped, “Mormon girls could cut that divorce rate in half if they’d just learn to give blow jobs.”
For those couples who do manage, or happen, to be sexually compatible, the years of repressed fantasies can lead to a highly imaginative sex life. Role-play, complete with costumes, is probably the most common, and is culturally accepted. Sex toys and fetish wear used to be relatively hard to get in Mormon-dominated areas like Utah and eastern Idaho, but the internet has changed that. BDSM practices are also widespread, especially given the continued inequality between men and women within the church. A couple might get off on having the woman dominate the man who, with his male-only “priesthood authority,” is the head of the family. Or the woman might revel in the masochistic pleasures of her subordinate position made sexually explicit. The church doesn’t endorse any of this, of course, but since the leaders are too old-fashioned to even use the word “sex”—its “morality” from the pulpit—a condemnation of specific sexual practices isn’t likely. (I do remember being taught that oral sex is never acceptable, but I couldn’t find anything that specific on the official website.) But opening up the twosome to a ménage a trois or a key party is culturally taboo, since you run the risk of exposure and excommunication. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but just that, like Mormon homosexuality, it’s very underground. Pretty ironic for a culture that got its start in polygamy.”
The following paragraph explains the way I look at the subject of sex and Mormons. These words are not mine, but define how I feel more than my own words ever could. The following is an excerpt from a lecture by Professor Darth J in his Cassius University course, Book of Mormon Exegesis 402.
“When reading the Book of Mormon, it is of crucial importance that we not impose our own preconceived notions of sexuality– be they the fundamentalist caricature of critics of the literalist interpretations of folk Mormonism– on the text. We should not look for the Book of Mormon in BDSM. Rather, we should look for BDSM in the Book of Mormon.”
UPDATE: I recently learned about the story of Josh Weed, a happily married Mormon man who came out as gay earlier this year. Check out his story here and here. Tell us what you think.