Jung wrote that the strongest check to sex is stern necessity. But even in a society without contraceptive technology, at the full mercy of the limits of all those basic necessities, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the physical and emotional pleasures attending the procreative act, without deploying the procreative power. With adjustment of cultural mores this can also be done without allowing it to produce too much disruption of social and family life. It's just that the ways societies have devised of doing this (like homosexual acts and ritual prostitution) have been condemned as abominations by the dominant arbiters of mores in Western civilization.
So if the “soft yet mighty powers” of sex are to be held indivisible and not to be divorced from the procreative function, then the use of them as a bonding agent between husband and wife is a deviation. At the very least, those of us who are married have an extraordinary privilege to enjoy some very, very fun things that others can't. Of course people outside the license of marriage see that privilege, and I wonder how many of them see it as unfair, like the license of pasty, pudgy people wearing Sunday clothes in the Church Office Building who can say they live the Word of Wisdom and get their Temple recommends renewed with no trouble, and then waddle down to the cafeteria for prime rib every Thursday and 1300-calorie desserts at a whim.
If there be allowance for the stimulation of nerve clusters and the attendant hormonal effects as expressions of emotional bonding and commitment, decisively separated from the aim to procreate, then what is the reason to only restrict it to couples with procreative ability? And what is the reason for it to be a crime second only to murder in even the most mature, loving and respectful circumstance outside of the solemnization of commitment by ritual?
In a way, there was more honesty in the old prudish teachings of the Church, when married couples were told that to experiment with oral sex or other “perversions” was sinful. Because such things are blatant diversions if not subversions of the natural procreative purpose of human sexuality. The only thing that separates them from fornication and whoredom is the marriage covenant, or, as one ex-fundamentalist blogger puts it, “the magical marriage switch.” LDS marital sex therapy takes for granted that such a recreational approach to sexual relations is congruent with a narrow restriction of the recreation within a relationship originally founded on procreative management. But it's time to admit that this narrow restriction makes it impossible for the the gospel or the Church to be really “sex-positive.”
A truly sex-positive attitude would tell me that I ought to welcome and explore the homosexual potential in myself (which I’ll mention in more detail below), for the sake of living a fuller life and having more joy in sex – as my divinely-given right! A sex-positive outlook centers not on covenant or even commitment but on consent. A sex-positive outlook also recognizes that transgression, or at least novelty, is vital to sexual excitement (an obvious truth from a biological perspective on sex, which nonetheless flummoxes even the best-intentioned of LDS sex therapists who insist on clinging to the “God gave us sex” idea). Sex positivity says that although something special does happen to people who share the bodily intimacy of sex respectfully which can nurture emotional intimacy, it doesn’t have to entail it, and that people can have respectful and enjoyable sex without having to be tied down by commitment.
Barlow introduced his 1986 article with an anecdote of a missionary asked about the Mormon attitude towards sexuality. Quoth the new elder: “We believe in it.”
“We” believe in sexuality the way that the public schools believe in reading: as something to be done in certain times and places, under the proper authorization, with the approved materials and for certain programmed ends. If it is done outside of those bounds that the lord has set, then it is rebellion.
This simile has grave deficiencies: promiscuous sex still threatens life-and-death consequences. But those who read what they can, when and where they can, for the sheer joy of reading and discovery, also find their minds inseminated and infected by ideas outside the approved and intended program of their school, church, family, community or country. Schools make a great show of encouraging reading, but as one who truly loves to read and attended some excellent and well-funded public schools, I am convinced that their purpose is in fact to contain and engineer reading towards predetermined ends. Their purpose is hostile to the free reading and open inquiry which have shown themselves such destabilizing influences against earthly governments.
Well, here is one clear limit of the comparison: unrestricted and promiscuous reading can lead you to freedom. Unrestricted and promiscuous sex can't.
The Church is not and cannot be sex-positive. The restored gospel is sex-restrictive for the sake of being sex-wise. That is what I am reaching for here. Sex positivity is not wisdom. It is just another kind of unbalanced tunnel-vision, and Mormon attempts to assert sex positivity are embarrassing to anyone paying close enough attention.