Here’s another question that we could think through: the intense feelings that come during adolescence for the unlucky majority who aren’t asexual, the sudden rush upon seeing a certain face or pair of hips, the burning desire to fuck that grabs us at night when we’re alone – what does it mean, really, to say that those are good and proper feelings implanted in us by God? Certainly to act on them would be Satan’s work, if it meant reaching out and clutching that pair of hips, or making a call to the local casual sex hotline. (Though the managers of that hotline could argue that they’re providing a valuable service). But when you are told under pain of grievous sin and rigorous repentance not to indulge these feelings at this time – and you have no idea how many years will pass until you are finally authorized to – then what does it mean to say that these feelings come from God? If they do, then God is a torturer, and if you hadn’t been brainwashed by Seminary into an irresponsible interpretation of Job, you might read in Job and find some consolation in your misery’s company, under the ginding heel of God’s boot. But the Church’s practical solution to these itchy days and nights is to cast these disruptive feelings as coming from Satan. And it is here that I think Brotherson tips her hand in an interesting way. Her commentary on mankind’s innocence before the Fall, the purity of sexuality in Edenic, infantile and redeemed states, implies the doctrine that I intuit here: there are indeed sweet and pure natural affections planted by God, and these are designed to draw us forth from wholesome and decent associations to the hot and heavy physical intimacies that include sex, when we have cemented an exclusive union with a chosen eternal companion. This would all work beautifully without a hitch in a better world, but with Satan unbound, he comes in and muddies the waters with these inappropriate carnal and sensual feelings, which then of course must be of the devil.
Following this line of thought, it would seem reasonable enough, then, to say that visually triggered sexual attraction and arousal, which is thought to be the typical male way, is devilish, since it is so much easier to become sexually attracted and aroused by strangers through sight than through the slow, steady buildup of emotional connection and trust. How much holier our sexuality would be if we only got aroused when in the presence of someone with whom we had built an intimate friendship, and then capped it with a covenant. Instead, we have people getting turned on by sights, sounds and smells – not only from their committed partners, but from random strangers.
When I was young I understood that when I got married it would be right and proper to get horny for my wife. People say that it isn’t really lust if you feel sexual desire for your spouse. I have never been convinced of the second point, and for the sake of being thorough, I have to question the first: really, is it all right for me to want my wife sexually because of how she looks to me? Is it all right to be crazy about her body? Or is that objectifying her, demeaning her dignity, treating her like a piece of meat? What about keeping everything on a high level? Every time I make advances because the sight of her hips turns me on, am I sinning, and trying to entice her to be an accomplice in it? Should she be vigilant in detecting when my advances are motivated by these baser impulses, and turn them away, insisting that I not demean her, only agreeing to respond when I come to her in an attitude of respectful affection, and of holiness?
What I am describing here: how is it different from the Good Girl Syndrome? How much of wives’ disgust with their sex lives has to do with their husbands’ visually-triggered turn-ons and visceral hunger for the pleasures of their bodies, when the wives thought that sex was supposed to be a Celestial sacrament? Young women in the Church are discouraged from identifying too strongly with their appearances or focusing on body image, so what are we supposed to do when a man courts and marries a woman whom he considers sexually attractive, and when, as a husband, he continues to desire her based on the sensual appeal of her body? Of course the day will come when they’re both too old to be sexy, but in the meantime . . .