One Size Does Not Fit All, Part III: Resizing for Niche Markets
In my first post to the One Size Does Not Fit All series, I had asked a couple of questions at the end of the post, since I knew that I couldn’t address all the things I wanted to in that one post. The second post in the series addressed the first post I asked, and now, there is one more question left to answer:
- If one size truly doesn’t fit all (or doesn’t fit all very well), then shouldn’t the church try to come up with different shirt sizes in the same pattern for different body types, so to speak?
In the series, I have touched upon what I believe to be the “one size” that doesn’t fit all — the church seems to work great from a white, heteronormative, cis-male, middle-class, able-and-willing-to-believe perspective…but with the absence of any of these factors, the experience risks fitting poorer.
In this series, I have specifically focused on the heteronormative dynamic of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the work that has served as the most recent, public authoritative LDS position on the family.
What I wanted to write about in this concluding part is my feeling that this dynamic really isn’t necessary, and that in fact, it is a shame that it turns so many away, when in fact, it could actually be offering a relevant message.
This section is probably the most awkward for me to write, but to put it bluntly, I think that there’s a lot of Mormonism that I haven’t cast off, and that, for who knows what reasons, I am not in any hurry to cast off. Recently, I read a thread on r/exmormon suggesting that Mormons (and, by extension, exmormons) were in some way cursed to be asexual. Since I am intrigued whenever asexuality is mentioned, I clicked into the thread, but was disappointed that what was described wasn’t really asexuality at all. From the opening post:
I was talking to my older brother the other day (also atheist, exmo) and he made a comment that Mormons (and especially ex mormons) are in a way asexual. That we are taught from a very early age to put women on a pedestal, and that this ultimately stunts what is commonly referred to as “the game” ie the ability to flirt and interact in a sexual manner with the opposite sex.
The exmo is extremely disadvantaged here bc the dating rituals at BYU et al are extremely different from normal society. The exmo male mainly comes off as aloof and lacking confidence (which the latter is definitely not attractive to the ladies) Add to this the lack of emotional resonance and it is a recipe for loneliness.
I don’t think this matches with asexuality at all, but I wouldn’t say there isn’t anything at all to it. But inspite of the gendered dynamics explicitly lain out here (“putting women on a pedestal” being the thing that “stunts…the game” or “the ability to flirt and interact in a sexual manner with the opposite sex”) which may be a bit problematic, I would say that many Mormons (and by extension, ex-Mormons) have a “peculiar” (read: Mormon) way of seeing relationships and romances with either gender.
I mean, ex-Mormons have to learn coffee and tea. I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be inconceivable to think that there is stuff that ex-Mormons are unfamiliar about in interpersonal realms. I’m not the first who has suggested a connection between Mormonism and stunted social development.
I dunno. I think this section is awkward for me to write because I don’t know how much of my own perceived naiveté or ignorance or inadequacy in this realm is because of a Mormon upbringing or just because of my own personal idiosyncrasies.
But I’ll put it out here: I find even entertaining the possibility of dating in a non-Mormon context bewildering to absurd. And then to try to talk about gay dating!
I don’t know if I’m stuck in “repressed prude” mode because of a Mormon upbringing or because of my own personal idiosyncrasies or if I’m just a “Mormon romantic,” but the non-Mormon world just doesn’t seem to work that way.
The interesting thing about the reddit post claiming asexuality [sic] as a curse for ex-Mormons is how much it would not generally be a curse for Mormons, yet above, I have framed this curse (or its source) as affecting both Mormons and ex-Mormons equally. In other words, both Mormons AND ex-Mormons have the same social naiveté/”peculiarity”/ignorance/whatever that would lead to the awkwardness, but it’s only going to really impact ex-Mormons. But why is that?
Well, the redditor even pointed it out implicitly. Faithful Mormons — especially ones at BYU — do have their own dating rituals. In fact, the church in general makes sure to make a primordial soup environment for abiogenic chemistry to happen among young single adult Mormons.
And I mean, it may not work out for everyone. There are plenty of young single adults who drop the “young” prefix before (without?) dropping the “single” prefix.
…but there is that primordial soup.
Your ex-Mormon doesn’t have that soup, as he or she is not going to be going to the YSA ward (or any ward, for that matter.) And your gay Mormon or ex-Mormon doesn’t have that soup, by virtue of the fact that the odds of lightning triggering the first particles of a love life are really stacked. (My biology metaphors need work.)
…but that’s where I’m trying to get at.
The church is fully aware of the importance in getting its straight members to marry and have children as soon as possible. I have heard a few times that someone within the church said that the single greatest predictor of whether a man would stay in activity in the church is whether he went on a mission or not (well, that’s strike one, for me)…but I’d be willing to venture that getting married and having children is another factor they care about.
When it comes to gay members, however…it’s like the church hasn’t even thought it through enough! In a system that screams the importance of companionship and family, for gay and lesbian members, the church demands celibacy. (At least, that’s when the church is not implying/pressuring/suggesting that those gay members get married to someone of the opposite sex anyway.)
Keep the design; resize for niche markets
The Mormon romantic in me is very disappointed at the aromantic approach the church takes for its gay members. It’s disappointed with the approach that nearly all churches take for gay members. Stuck with beliefs about the intrinsic ickiness of homosexuality, these churches have to completely alienate its gay members. Consequently, not a single one of them has taken the revolutionary step of trying to resize its message for these members.
When we speak of “chastity,” why can’t that be a message to everyone about commitment, about dedication, about thoughtfulness? This is a message that can be shared for any relationship, and yet the LDS church misses out on this because chastity for it includes heterosexuality.
I want to say, “These are good values for everyone.” And I mean, I am aware that there are those who will say that this is just trying to appropriate the same problematic values of heteronormativity for gays and lesbians. And I’m sure that Seth R. could have one of several comments on this (because he has posted several comments in the past about gay people and marriage.) So, maybe I’ll tone that down…maybe not good values for everyone, but certainly better values than the status quo in the church.