This is the final post in a five-part series on marriage, in case that wasn’t obvious in the title.
Thus far I have tried to make a case for difference in marriage, arguing that without confronting the fundamental differences symbolized by the sexual unity of male and female, we are less able to understand fully what it means to be charitable. In this final post, I will argue that defending marriage – and by association, charity – requires we defend difference.
Thus far, Latter-day Saints have put a lot of money and rhetoric into defending marriage, in particular against gay marriage. Perhaps the most notable example of this was the church’s recent campaign for Prop 8 in California. Though Prop 8 passed, we have seen since its passage that this “victory” for marriage cost more than just a lot of money. For the Latter-day Saint church in particular, the victory bordered on a public relations nightmare, with a lot of hate generated against the organization and its membership. Even worse, perhaps, was the division it caused within the membership.
One might argue that these are simply signs of the times – that we are in the last days and should expect good to be reviled – and one might be correct. But it is also correct that rhetoric (and money, for that matter) can only get one so far when it isn’t backed up by correlating behavior. In other words, if our actions don’t reflect our commitment to and value of marriage, then we will almost certainly struggle to defend marriage with our rhetoric.
You may ask, “But don’t our actions reflect our rhetoric?” When it comes to defending marriage, that’s the question we ought to be asking ourselves. If what I have argued is correct, then our behaviors must reflect a willingness to embrace difference. And I fear that we as Latter-day Saints struggle with embracing difference, choosing instead to go with the flow of society and favor similarity – even between the sexes.
Consider a popular marriage book, And They Were Not Ashamed, written by Latter-day Saint Laura Brotherson to enhance the sex-lives of married couples (particularly Mormons). Brotherson spends two chapters discussing what she calls the “Symphony of the female sexual response,” her purpose being primarily to help the couple work together so that the woman might experience an orgasm at every sexual encounter.
Ostensibly, it appears that Brotherson is helping couples embrace differences that exist between men and women: it is generally far more difficult for a woman (biologically speaking) to have orgasms, so let’s figure out ways to make it happen. But what she may or may not know is that she is following in a long tradition of feminists who have been pining for a feminine sexuality that mirrors as close as possible male sexuality – orgasm every time.
Now, I don’t want to argue for or against female orgasms here. What I do want to point out, however, is that the author of this best-selling LDS sex book is doing little to promote differences – let alone embrace them – in her repetition of a stale argument for equality of the sexes. Once we make men and women biologically the same (all should have orgasms every time), what case do we have against persons of the same sex marrying?
That we fail to embrace difference at the biological level is also evident by our failure to embrace differences at the social level. It is true that our rhetoric is quite traditional: men and women are eternally different. But our practice? Aside from who gets the priesthood, what social differences do we have? Men and women increasingly assume similar roles in and out of the household. But to truly be different, we must not only differ biologically - our biological differences must necessarily have social manifestations. Ignoring differences or acting as though they should not be there is denying a truth so deep that it even manifests itself biologically. Denying the truth seems like the last thing Latter-day Saints want to do.
I do not know what these social differences ought to look like. I don’t even know if they should be universal (i.e., cut across all cultures). But if what I argue is correct, then we must at least start talking about differences. In order to defend marriage – and in doing so, defend a tolerant and loving society – differences must be there. If we aren’t different, then we can’t learn to love difference. And if we can’t learn to love difference, we not only fail to defend marriage, but we fail to defend charity.
Filed under: Culture, Mormon Culture, Relationships, Uncategorized Tagged: | And They Were Not Ashamed, charity, Family, gay marriage, Gender, LDS Church, marriage, Mormon Culture, Proposition 8, same-sex marriage, sexuality, women