Seeing as how we are doing some restructuring at Mormon Matters, I am going to take advantage of this “space” to encourage communication around issues and questions that often come up on my blog. Because sexuality represents such a high percentage of what I’m being asked about by LDS members, I am currently working on my “sex therapist” accreditation. Although I am qualified to do sex therapy as a Marriage & Family Therapist, I am wanting extra training in this area. So please bear with my topic and join me in sharing your thoughts on these types of “Mormon Matters.” Maybe my focus on sexuality will encourage those of you who want to see other topics covered on this site to submit manuscripts for possible posting 🙂 (Manuscripts can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
I think it is important to correctly define the term “erotica.”
- literature or art dealing with sexual love.
- literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality
If you’ve ever gone to a movie where there is a passionate kiss, if you’ve ever read a book that describes a romantic relationship, if you’ve ever gone to a museum and seen art depicting human anatomy in a sensual way or a loving embrace, if you’ve ever listened to a song describing physical yearning; you’ve been subject to erotica. Sexuality and sensuality are such an integral part of the human experience that it is bound to be captured by artists, historians, musicians, poets, authors, photographers, etc. A simple love letter between spouses can be termed erotica. Some of our scriptures are forms of poetic erotica- Genesis 2:24-25:Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Works of art, music and literature can open our personal human experience to one where we are more in touch with our spirit and body – where our souls are stirred – where inspiration can be elicited – and where we can join with our eternal companion on a deeper and more intimate level.
Erotica can be a wonderful part of tuning into our personal sexual selves. It can awaken feelings and arousal that in turn help us connect with our partners. The key, of course, is to be able to discern wholesome and appropriate forms of erotica from what crosses the line into pornography. I’m sure there would be great disagreement among our members as to what would constitute “appropriate” erotica. I have hope and faith that married couples can respectfully decide for themselves what is of worth within their relationship. However, some questions that might be helpful in appropriate discernment could include: Does this material include anything that would be considered abusive, harmful or demeaning? Is the sole purpose of this material to be sexually explicit? Is the purpose of this material to make money off of sex?
I would caution regarding the question, “Does this make me feel uncomfortable?” There are many legitimate reasons why we may feel uncomfortable and we should not ignore those feelings. However, the fact remains that many of us are inappropriately uncomfortable with the feelings of sexual arousal due to our upbringings, history, etc. A better question would be, “Why does this make me feel uncomfortable?,” ” Is this an appropriate reason?,” and “Does my spouse agree with me that this falls under inappropriate material?” If not, “Why do we differ?” These types of questions asked between a couple can open up a new and introspective dialogue that can help intimacy to grow – even if disagreements are not resolved.
“Part of sexual growth is exploring different forms of sensual-sexual expression. Erotic themes are expressed in many ways – music, art, literature, and photography. The word erotic means that something sexual is suggested or depicted in the content, which in turn is likely to evoke sexual feelings in the person who is viewing or reading the material.”
Taken from Becoming Orgasmic by Julia R. Heiman, PhD and Joseph LoPiccolo, PhD
It is interesting that some of the literature choices included by these authors as “erotica” include such classics as The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is an erotic piece of literature set within the realms of matrimony (it does contain strong language and violence as it is set in the 1700’s conflict between England and Scotland). Within Mormon culture many men are at a loss as to why their wives are enthralled with the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer. Yet this story of passion and everlasting love has left many women describing to me remembrances stirred of the courtships they experienced with their now-husbands and a renewed sense of desire to feel that passion again.
by Gustav Klimt is a good example of passionate art.
Pablo Neruda (Chilean) is considered one of the best hispanic poets of all time. In 100 Love Sonnets, Stephen Tapscott writes about his decision to translate these works: “We don’t have much of a tradition of love poetry in North America, and these poems seem to introduce attitudes of sensual joy of a sort that we – Anglophones, at least – have never been very comfortable with, nor very adept at expressing. Neruda seemed a natural choice, both because of his poems’ own worth and because of what he might contribute to our North American tradition, a voice of intelligent sensual joy.”
Here are a 3 Neruda samples that would be a great addition to a spousal love letter:
1. As we close this nocturnal door, my love
come with me, through the shadowy places.
Close your dreams, Love, enter my eyes with your skies,
spread out through my blood like a wide river.
Your body is smooth as stones in the water,
your kisses are clusters of fruit, fresh with dew.
As I live by your side, I live with the earth.
2. Full woman, flesh-apple, hot moon,
thick smell of seaweed, mud and light in masquerade,
what secret clarity opens through your columns?
What ancient night does a man touch with his senses?
Oh, love is a journey with water and stars,
with drowning air and storms of flour,
love is a clash of lightnings,
two bodies subdued by one honey.
3. Kiss by kiss I travel your little infinity,
your borders, your rivers, your tiny villages,
and a genital fire – transformed, delicious –
slips through the narrow roadways of the blood
till it pours itself, quick, like a night carnation, till it is:
and is nothing, in shadow, and a glimmer of light.
What are your thoughts about erotica? How would you classify it as different from pornography – or would you? Have you found it beneficial in your life? Do you agree or disagree with me regarding its role in the human story?
How do the messages we receive through church teachings form our views regarding erotica?
Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist. She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com.