Matt Stearmer is a Ph.D. Candidate of Sociology at The Ohio State University. His academic interests include social movements, gender, networks, public health and religion. His work has appeared in the Journal of Peace Research, and in a book titled Sex and World Peace. He currently serves as the first councilor in the Young Men’s Presidency. He and his partner Janille have four children ages 5-16. He is the author of an article entitled, A Reflection on the Cultural Construction of Sexual “Needs” in the journal SquareTwo found at SquareTwo.org Welcome S. Matthew Stearmer.
Questions addressed in the interview:
Your article is quite possibly one of the most potentially volatile mixes of topics; sex, and religion. Throw in politics and you will probably have a perfect recipe for social conflict cocktail. Let’s try and ease into a bit by maybe first addressing why sex in a religious or faith based context is either difficult or even contentious at times?
In your article you open with, “Recently, the topic of male sexuality, responsibility and faithfulness came up in a discussion among several LDS friends and co-workers.” First of all, I am glad to hear that even after this conversation you are still referring to them as friends and co-workers, not enemies….if one were to be a the proverbial fly on the wall in that discussion what would we have heard? What were some of the opinions that were injected in that conversation?
Is there a doctrine on this subject of marital intimacy? Responsibility of sex in the marriage? Your article asserts the following: “The central aim of the doctrine of the Restored Gospel is unity. Anything that divides us and creates hierarchy, especially between spouses, must be renounced for the evil it is.”
Your article presents another good quote, “The goal from a gospel perspective is not more sex, but more unity. Intimate sexual relationships between a husband and wife may be one means of getting there, but it is not the locus of the unified relationship.” The article makes the assumption, and there are probably statistics to make this a well founded assumption, that men see sex as a need, and women see responsibility as filling that need, as something to give up to their husbands. This paradigm, according to your article, leads to disunity. The next assumption, and maybe I am reading this wrong, is that this condition is far more universal than many may notice, even in temple sealed LDS marriages.
You give one such example of a couple who came to you for some counseling on the matter. Could you share that example?
There are three points that you feel is critical to having a healthy relationship, but one that actually falls in line with doctrinal precepts. Let’s go through those three:
– The first, sex is not intimacy.
– Second, even in marriage, sex does not necessarily lead to unity.
– Third, a focus on who “needed” what, and who did or did not get what they felt they “needed” from their spouse sexually, would have been an unnecessary, confusing, and further damaging approach to the problem being faced.
When one ventures into calling sex a spiritual or sacred thing, that can sometimes be a bit off putting, maybe even a mischaracterization. Here again, you face the idea head on with the article by making an assertion that placing sex as a “need” in a marriage is spiritually damning. How are these things connected?
This is even tied further to the idea that people who have committed sexual sins, either in or out of marriage covenants, seek to establish an excuse for their actions because sex was a need that was not being met.
This same idea is actually tied back to the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. How is that?
S. Matthew Stearmer is author of the article A Reflection on the Cultural Construction of Sexual “Needs” in the journal SquareTwo found at SquareTwo.org Thank you for coming on.