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A comment on modern era romantic love (via Eclipse)

July 15, 2010

A recent post at Mormon Matters about sexuality within marriage has turned out to be quite provocative…and some commenters have made statements on ‘love’ vs. ‘lust.’ Not to get too far into it, I think there was one little gem of a comment, written about Stephenie Meyer’s Eclipse (at least the movie version).

I went to see Eclipse with my two nieces the weekend it came out. It was my first exposure to the now famous books by Sister Myers [sic] (a fellow BYU Alumus). Now, this book series is incredibly popular in Utah and is supported by mountain west LDS parents up and down the Wasatch Front.

I must tell you that I have never in my entire life (even in my inactive period when I did not listen to Alma and bridle my passions)seen a more tortuous, twisted, psychotic, idiotic, obsessive, immoral movie. I can’t believe such a story was written by a Latter-day Saint graduate of BYU. It was pornography for females – pure and simple. There is no other way to describe it.

Now, please understand, I am by no means a prude. But I cannot fathom how such a storyline was sold in Deseret Book and how the females are not called to repentance for becoming infatuated with such a story. If the shoe were on the other foot, the men would have been called on the carpet in General Conference, Stake Conference, Ward Conference, and in every quorum meeting. It is a story of pure lust.

Is that what passes for romantic love in the current generation? Are I that out of it?

LOL.

I should probably admit that I have not watched the movies or read the books, but from hearing about it from various others, it seems that there is a lot of sexual tension.

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30 Comments
  1. In response to the quoted comment, I say OH BROTHER! I agree with her that the story is shallow and that Edward is creepily obsessive, Bella is ridiculous, etc…I couldn’t watch more than ten minutes of the first one…

    …but to suggest that it’s pornography and hint that women need to be called to repentance? I feel sorry for that woman and her husband, if she has one.

    Argh Mormon sexual repression!!! 🙂

  2. To that writer: Yes. You is that out of it.

  3. Actually, this is a topic that LDS leadership has been more concerned about.

    It’s well-known that women are wired a little differently than men. And I’d probably agree that harlequin romance novels are, more or less, the equivalent an online porn video, or a copy of Hustler Magazine. Females are just as into porn as the guys are, I’d wager.

    It’s just that the mostly male leadership feels incredibly awkward confronting young women on topics like masturbation, impure thoughts, and porn use. So it generally flies under the radar.

    That’s my theory why porn is generally considered to be a “guy issue” in LDS culture – because the male leadership is too nervous to call the girls on it.

    Not that I’m saying the correct solution is to bag on the young women just as much as the young men (though I suppose I should at least applaud the emerging sense of gender equality). Honestly, I think we’d be better off treating the young men in the LDS Church more like how we treat the young women, not vis versa.

    Just my two cents.

  4. DLS permalink

    Yes, we would be better off with more gender “equality”, but we’ll see it when pigs fly.

    Contrary to what some outside the Church think, the Brethren have long harped on the “men are scum” theme and we get called on the carpet for so much as passing gas at the wrong time (is there ever a RIGHT time?). The sisters get away with bloody murder because our leaders naively put them on the proverbial pedestal. Many sisters do indeed deserve such reverence, but NOT by default of their gender!

  5. The problem is DLS that the leadership is all male.

    So by default, they tend to notice some things more than others.

  6. Sarah, I dunno…I could see how Stephenie Meyer (and the other women who have unwittingly fallen into the trap of Twilight) should be called to repentance.

    Repentance for falling for something so bad. Come on ladies, you can do better than that.

    (I think the same this is true of the porn that is often popular w/ guys. We can do better than the [hilariously] artificial and fantastic situations that are out there, so if we feel embarrassed about anything, it is that we are “satisfied” with something so empty.)

    Daniel,

    I might be old-fashioned…but IMO, when I think the author “are out of it,” it’s not because I think this is what passes for romantic love in this generation, but because this is what he actually thinks passes for romantic love in this generation, because he cannot see romantic love elsewhere. (I hope you meant something like that too)

    Seth,

    It’s a lot different to call people out on words on paper. I can see how it’s a lot easier to point to provocative images and videos and say, “This will BLAST A CRATER IN YOUR BRAI~~~~~N”

    DLS,

    Thanks for the comment. The interesting thing is how much discrepancy there is between the words and actions. For example, “men are scum,” but apparently they are scum that are worthy for power (such as the Priesthood). It seems to me that the “proverbial pedestal” for women is a limiting cage…a corset or bound feet.

  7. Women usually only get hammered when they’re risking pregnancy, or causing a young man to have to talk to his bishop.

    Other than that, they pretty much get a free pass.

  8. “I dunno…I could see how Stephenie Meyer (and the other women who have unwittingly fallen into the trap of Twilight) should be called to repentance.

    Repentance for falling for something so bad.”

    LOL!

  9. I love the discussion. I’m a bit of a fence-sitter on the issue. I asked my wife what she thought of this little discussion. She said it’s not porn, but she thinks it shouldn’t be sold at Deseret Book either. Then she said she thought it isn’t being sold there, so I did a search for the author, Stephanie Meyer. Yup, it has been removed. See for yourself.

    http://deseretbook.com/store/search?x=0&y=0&query=stephanie+meyer

  10. Although it does appear that the Twilight series is not sold at Deseret Book anymore…her latest book is.

    She spells her name weird, with two many e’s. Stephenie Meyer:

    http://deseretbook.com/store/search?x=0&y=0&query=stephenie+meyer

  11. Agreed, I hereby submit my formal request that Stephenie Meyer remove at lest one ‘e’ from her name.

  12. Michael permalink

    As the author of the aforementioned comment referenced by Andrew, I feel the need to defend my position.

    Let me start by acknowledge Daniel’s mocking by stating that, yes, the last sentence of my comment is grammatically incorrect. I was in a hurry when I typed it and did not proof-read as diligently as I should. The last sentence should read: “Am I that out of it?”

    Now, to put the comment in context. I am a gay, LDS convert in my late 40’s living a celibate life in accordance with the commandment given to me by our Prophet. I am very familiar with the ways of the natural man and have, sadly, developed the ability to recognize pornography, lust, and sexual desire with great refinement through my prior inactive periods in the Lord’s Kingdom. I make no excuses for prior behaviour but have developed certain talents from Babylon regarding these sins.

    It is well understood that female sexuality does not fixate itself on the “act” as its primary goal. Instead, it is the desire, the build-up, the longing, the tantalizing forbiddenness of acting upon the lust that provides most of the attraction for women. How many women are disappointed in their first few encounters when they follow the lead of the male and have a quick 15 minute exercise in calisthenics instead of the experience they thought they would enjoy?

    It is also well understood that female arousal requires mental fantasy, protection, security and pure dedication from the male to her every whim and want. All of the married brethren should have figured that one out within the first six months of their nuptials.

    I shan’t detail the contrasting male arousal factors as they will already be well known amongst the readers of this blog.

    It was with this clear understanding that I composed my original comment. I was home visiting my family (east coast representing) and my two (non-member) nieces asked me to take them to see Eclipse. Being a Mormon for close to 30 years now, I was well aware of the Twilight phenomenon but had yet to immerse myself in its details through reading or the movies.

    I was utterly shocked to see what comprises this fantasy world created by Sister Meyer. I don’t know how else to classify it except as female pornography. It touches upon every arousal factor that stimulates a woman. And, to top it all off, the lead character is an underage teen.

    So, yes, Daniel, I admit that I must truly be out of it when I have expectations of something less pornographic from a fellow BYU graduate who is an active Latter-day Saint mother. The sale of such material at Deseret Book (since discontinued) was one of the great mysteries in all of this. Did someone get held accountable and sacked for such a decision?

    It is still my belief that the sisters of the Kingdom are participating in pornography when they consume such materials and pass them along to their daughters. They should be called to repentance for such misconduct just as the brethren are on a regular basis every six months.

  13. Gee, the two movies in the series I’ve seen pretty much were good places to take a nap. Guess as a guy I really just missed what was going on.

    My daughter saw them at BYU and thought they were snooze fests as well. I’m not sure all women relate to this sort of thing.

  14. On the other hand, my wife thought they were fine to catch at the dollar theater. Not worth buying popcorn or a drink with, but otherwise not that bad.

  15. Thing is Michael, the Twilight series is pretty mild by comparison to the stuff Utah women are reading on a regular basis in the romance novel section. I don’t really disagree with points of your analysis. I just don’t think your basis for comparison is fully realized here.

  16. Michael permalink

    Seth R.

    You are probably correct. My gay, celibate world does not afford me with as much up-close personal observation of the female gender as would be available to my straight brethren.

  17. Michael permalink

    Seth R.

    Would you classify them as romance novels or as lust novels? Since Andrew and Daniel have questioned my understanding of “romance” it would be helpful to have an outside opinion on the true classification of this genre.

    • In response to this comment, Michael, what we were talking about was not your understanding of “romance” as a genre, but your understanding of “romantic love” of a generation. Don’t confuse lightning for the lightning bug

  18. Discomfort with talking about female sexuality on the part of the leadership, as well as the “pay off’ of this sort of ‘female pornography’ being not, how shall I say this ‘physical’ is what leads to the lack of official reprimand? Or am I wrong, do woman kind of, you know, to this stuff? Apparently like the Church leadership I am also uncomfortable talking about female sexuality.

  19. Sure, there’s lots of lust in there. But for a female audience, the emotional connection usually has to be stronger. Themes of attraction, resistance by the woman, then yielding to the man and letting him have his way (usually with a lot of highly sexual language) are par for the course in romance novels. But the emotional buildup is a lot more pervasive too.

    For girls, it’s all about the buildup and the emotional setup. Once you provide the emotional setting, there’s just as much lust on the female side as on the male side.

    • And twilight does play off these themes. It just withholds the payoff.

      And as we all should know – tantalizing someone with something desired and then withholding it can be a very strong. Whether this is porn, or just good romance, is a bit more ambiguous question.

  20. philomytha permalink

    My take is that many Mormon women love the Twilight books because they’re arousing, but there’s no sex depicted so they don’t have to feel guilty. I’ve heard more than one LDS man say that the books increased their wives’ desire for sex. My SIL made her husband read the books because she believed it would “improve their romance”.

    I’d categorize it as PG rated erotica.

  21. Michael, you might be interested in my essay on Main Street Plaza that’s about precisely your concerns. I think it’s true that LDS culture has moved into a state of hypocrisy in which non-procreative sexuality (whether oral, anal or simply lustful) is okay, so long as it’s between “one man” and “one woman,” but non-procreative sexuality for those of the same gender is still considered “evil.” The essay explains how this has played out over the last 30 years and how “same-gender attraction” as a concept came to be (since SGA is indeed conceptually about lust, not about behavior).

    In Twilight, there’s a lot of lust going on, but it’s never acted upon physically (Edward continuously pushes Belle to “marry him” before they have sex), so it’s considered “okay” by LDS standards. But it’s clear that the place of lust is different in Mormonism today than it was 30 years ago. For those who are gay and celibate in the Church, whose very lust tends to be considered something to avoid, the hypocrisy on this point is perhaps astounding.

  22. Michael permalink

    Thanks Alan! I will check out your post. And I appreciate the support.

  23. Concerning alternative “porn for women”:

    See this book

    See the xkcd response

    (Both links are SFW; the second one contains a single F-word)

    @ the topic: I think Seth hits the nail on the head with this comment, “For girls, it’s all about the buildup and the emotional setup. Once you provide the emotional setting, there’s just as much lust on the female side as on the male side. [SNIP] And twilight does play off these themes. It just withholds the payoff.”

    Does that mean reading Twilight is as bad as watching Who’s Nailin’ Palin? In my book, no. One of the reasons support of the porn industry is so tragic is that it tends to exploit a class of barely-of-age girls who turned to starring in porno movies in desperation when they couldn’t find other work as actresses. Think of the female apartment neighbor character in Richard Dutcher’s States of Grace and you’ll get what I mean. Reading Twilight is a largely victimless crime.

    Then again, comparing sin is always part and parcel to rationalizing it and justifying it, so I’m not a big fan of comparing sin. If it’s bad, don’t do it. Who the hell cares if someone out there is doing something worse?

    I really don’t think women in the LDS church “get off easy.” Men catch hell for masturbation and porn; women catch hell for chastity and modesty. Men get “little factory” talks, women get bad lessons about licked cupcakes and chewed gum. We can debate whether each gender ought to be chewed out on those issues to the extent that they are, but from this outsider’s perspective, there seems to be at least some attempt at parity.

  24. hehe, i want to hear the licked cupcake lesson now.

  25. Jen permalink

    As an LDS woman, I haven’t been able to understand all the hoopla about the Twilight movies. I have never had an interest in the books or the movies, but after seeing young women so interested in them and friends of mine as well, I broke down and watched the first two movies. I didn’t like them, I disliked the music and I was initially very surprised that an LDS woman wrote them, but after thinking about it, I realized that just because someone is LDS doesn’t mean they live the standards set by the church.

    More and more I see women who are LDS living standards lower than the church has set in relation to morality, virtue, etc. It really doesn’t surprise me that so many people love the books and the movies, but it is disappointing. I am happy to say that my teenage daughter began reading the first book and stopped because she didn’t like what she was reading. She has never seen the movies and has no interest in them. I have tried to teach my children to pay attention to what they are watching and to understand how it affects them. I rarely watch TV and don’t go to movies very often because of the lack of good, wholesome entertainment. I am amazed how often my kids call home and ask if they can see this or that movie, one that has a load of profanity and sensuality, over at an LDS friend’s home. Frankly, I don’t get it. I don’t get why people aren’t paying attention and why they don’t seem to care and I am confused about the Twilight frenzy. I would love to meet some women who feel the same way as I do, they are hard to find and it is confusing as an LDS woman.

  26. Naomi permalink

    Late getting to this post, but I can’t help commenting.

    Both of my younger sisters read the books in the series before there was really a big hooha about them. After going along to see the first movie and finding it somewhat ‘cute’ (despite Edwards obsessive controlling and Bella’s plain stupidity) I read the first book and finished it easily. I find it no more harmful than any other romance or YA novel I’ve read, though at times dragging.
    At the time I had no idea that Stephenie Meyer was a mormon, and only find out recently (That’s what happens when you live in NZ!)
    They now seem to make a lot of sense to me.
    But, thats where things get murky, as the reason Edward wants to marry Bella first is only because he’s scared he’ll hurt her when they have sex and so I assume his ‘brother and sister’ vampires who aren’t married are all having rapant vampire sex thanks to their similar degrees of strength? Anyway…
    It’s no mystery why they’re popular with mormon girls, all that desire, sexual tension, never following through with the actual act. As to the books being porn, thats ridiculous, they’re harmless. Nothing that we don’t or haven’t faced in everyday life. Stephenie Meyer describes everything that goes on in Bellas head so thoroughly (Almost too much) that you feel like your there back in high school,crushes, first love etc…
    Feelings every girl/women has felt, so they are relatable.
    As to Meyer’s being a mormon, I found that so hard to believe that a mormon would of written these, in that circumstance they definitely are a little risque? The way she describes everything it’s easy to think these are just her repressed sexual fantsies…
    Especially since she has commented that the idea came to her in a dream 🙂
    Anyway I’m rambling. Sorry for the long long post! Great blog by the way, been reading for a couple of months now.
    Never had the licked cupcake lesson, but did have the half eaten biscuit lesson, found it ‘offensive’ and had to leave the room. I am no half eaten biscuit.

  27. Naomi, I haven’t read the books/watched the movies, but one thing I had heard is that Edward is “traditionalist” as toward dating, and this in part motivates his abstinence-before-marriage thing (whereas Bella just wants him to ravish her). Would you say that that is not at all a decent reading of the character motivations? (If it is, then wouldn’t this be a rather nice LDS reading for Edward? [not so much for Bella though]).

    No need to apologize for the length of a comment. I get longer sometimes…

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