But what if everybody has sex?

You might think that Mormons should be able to avoid having sex when we work with colleagues of the opposite sex, since many of us manage to abstain from sex with our own fiancés. However, Mormons aren’t too sure about that, judging from how often the objection, “But what if everybody has sex?” is raised when we talk about women’s ordination to the priesthood and how that could lead to the possibility of having mixed gender branch presidencies, bishoprics, high councils and stake presidencies. Many Mormons claim that women and men could never work in church presidencies together because committing adultery is a practically inevitable outcome of working several hours per week with members of the opposite sex.

I have not served in a mixed gender presidency since the powers that be wised up and outlawed female Sunday School secretaries—a necessary move to safeguard male Sunday School presidents and their male counselors from the lurid influence of a sex object/notetaker. However, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the topic of not having sex with colleagues of the opposite sex because I have been employed throughout my whole marriage, working in mixed gender offices, and yet I have never committed adultery once! Really! I should get some sort of award.

Spouse of the Year: Didn't even commit adultery

Today, I am sharing how I successfully abstain from extramarital sex in hopes of preparing our community for a future in which men and women can serve together in church presidencies without having orgies.

Strategy 1: Keep your clothes on.
I never get naked during business meetings, even if the room is hot. Or even if the coworker is hot! I also stay dressed when working alone in my own cubicle—a simple precaution in case someone walks by seeking sex.

Strategy 2: Just say no.
Another good technique is the same one I was taught about drugs in elementary school.  When a coworker asks me to have sex, I just say no. Although, to be completely honest, none of my coworkers have ever asked me to have sex. Weird, huh, since these mixed gender situations are supposed to be so titillating? I really can’t explain how that hasn’t happened. However, occasionally someone asks me on a date and since I am a married woman, I say no. It works like a charm!

Strategy 3: Don’t get a room.
I don’t hold business meetings in hotel rooms. Well, actually, I often attend business meetings in hotels, but in the conference rooms, not in the beds. I don’t hold business meetings in my bed at home either, even though that would save my company money on venue costs. Of course, you don’t need a bed to have sex, but having sex on chairs in public spaces is awkward and often not allowed. But what about meetings in private offices? How can you possibly avoid having sex in a sexy private space like the bishop’s office? That brings me to the next strategy:

Strategy 4: Keep sex off the agenda.
At business meetings, I usually talk about business. I sometimes get sidetracked into discussions about weather or politics or movies or something, but I never meander into anything like foreplay. Furthermore, I keep my hands to myself and find that my coworkers do too. Of course, if they didn’t, I could always report them to Human Resources for sexual harassment, which brings me to the next topic of discussion:

Institutional Policy

If people just won’t abstain of their own accord—let’s face it, not everyone can match my expert marital fidelity skills—institutional policies may make compliance more likely. Sure, one policy option is having half of the presidencies all-male and half all-female—excuse me, I meant having all-male presidencies over nearly all mixed gender groups that include males over puberty—but there are so many more we could consider!

Educational Campaigns
We could teach all church members, starting long before they are old enough to marry, that adultery is really, really bad.

Huh. I think we already have this in the curricula?

Carrots Approaches
We could offer rewards to people who don’t cheat on their spouses, like temple recommends and eternal salvation.

Oh, right. We already do this too.

Sticks Approaches
We could punish adulterers by stripping them of their priesthood and removing them from their positions in bishoprics or stake presidencies or whatever, although I am not sure this would work for women. I mean, what have we got to lose? No wonder the brethren are nervous that we could just go have sex at any moment! But men and women both get baptized and married and stuff, so we could threaten to annul all of their ordinances if they have sex with someone other than their spouse.

But I think this policy is already in place as well?

It almost seems as if segregated presidencies aren’t even necessary, with all the other deterrents to extramarital sex already present in our community, doesn’t it?

Anyhow, just in case mixed gender presidencies do become a reality within our church someday, you might want to prepare now. I recommend the following exercise:

  1. Go to work. Since it is 2014 (or later, at whatever time you read this), chances are you will encounter people of the opposite sex there.
  2. Don’t have sex with them.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

You may also like...

36 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    I am dying over this right now. I’ve had so many conversations about this topic and it’s been a point of conflict for me.

    Thanks for saying what I’ve been thinking but in a hilarious way that really makes the point clear. Perfect.

  2. EJM says:

    Hilarious!! Back in the ’70’s in our Stake we were told not to allow men to help us when we put on our coats – only our husbands could do that. Also, when there were dances, only spouses could dance with each other. There was such paranoia, it was ridiculous and to see just about every old lady or man keep a watch in the hallways that the younger ones were “obeying” this edict was beyond ridiculous. There must have been a real bad case of adultery going on!

  3. Andrea R. says:

    Recently, I had to spend a substantial amount of time with two men resolving a technology issue that I had with one of my classes. I had to sit with them in their offices while we were waiting for data to upload, and I had to have repeat visits with them regarding the same issue. Incredibly, I DID NOT HAVE SEX WITH EITHER OF THEM. Also surprisingly, NEITHER OF THEM SEEMED TO WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH ME EITHER. I was shocked.

  4. Caroline says:

    Pure awesomeness, April. The whole idea that men and women can’t work together in presidencies because they might have sex with each other has always annoyed me to no end. Please. As you so ably point out, almost every single person that works in the U.S. today works in mixed gender situations, and somehow the vast majority of them manage to keep their clothes on. I suspect the rule against mixed gender presidencies really isn’t about fears of adultery. It’s about keeping women out of positions of leadership over groups comprised of men and women.

  5. Suzette Smith says:

    I love it, April.
    Thanks for your clever writing.

  6. Emily U says:

    Yay, I’m eligible for an award certificate! EJM, that’s pretty unbelievable.

    I’ve occasionally arranged play dates with dads of my kids friends, even a museum outing once. (I spent a whole day with a man not my husband looking at dinosaurs with 5 year olds. And amazingly escaped with my chastity intact. Perhaps my once-or-twice a year lunches with male co-workers prepared me for the wiles of one-on-one conversations with men.) I can’t imagine ever doing something like that with a Mormon dad, though, I’m a little afraid my invitation would be misconstrued as a chapter out of Potiphar’s wife’s playbook. I feel badly for Mormon stay-at-home dads, it must be hard to arrange for play dates with Mormon moms.

  7. Em says:

    Okay but what if someone gets a ride home? Cars are notorious for hosting sexual orgies. Is there a way to give someone a ride home from a meeting without beginning a torrid affair in the process? Sometimes I see ward members on my bus and we sit together and talk on the ride, even if they’re of the opposite sex. Am I playing with fire?

    Also “sexual orgies” was a favorite phrase of my seminary teacher, it seemed like she worked it in at least once a week. We always wondered what other kinds of orgies there were?

    • EJM says:

      Even today in Mormondom, getting a ride in the car of the opposite sex is definitely a no-no – that back seat is very tempting!

      • Melyngoch says:

        I clearly went to the wrong seminary. We didn’t hear nearly enough about orgies.

        The transportation issue is so difficult because you also don’t want to be caught walking in the rain at the same time, which is a known set-up for all kinds of sexy escapades.

  8. Janie says:

    Thanks for remaining chaste. Work place romances are fairly common, whether the parties are single or married. If abuse can occur between Bishops and youth, certainly consensual sex can occur between two people working together closely in their callings. (I actually know of a couple that have occurred.) Many sex therapists have commented that it’s not a question of “if,” but “when” you will develop a crush or infatuation on a person close to you other than your spouse. Some will ride out the crush with no problem. Others will succumb. In any event, I don’t think it’s so common, or rises to a level, that church leaders link it to denying ordination.

    • Em says:

      I agree it can certainly happen, especially if you work in stressful situations or for long hours with someone. I have heard members use that as a justification for denying ordination, or even against having mixed presidencies when no ordination would be necessary — men serving in primary, women serving in Sunday School presidencies etc. Whether that is an official policy I have no idea, but it is certainly a popular belief in some quarters. It seems to me that there would still be ways of having policies in place that would help people not develop intense friendships with the opposite sex — or even just trainings if necessary. For example, if your presidency meetings have all members (or most members) present then the conversation is unlikely to ever become particularly private or intimate.

      I think church romance can certainly be a problem, but I also think it is a mistake for church policies or church culture to reflect an assumption that it is likely to happen, and the only way to solve that is complete avoidance.

      • Patty says:

        Good thoughts. I know of problems that have arisen when church callings have thrown men and women together now (it’s possible-activities commitees, YM/YW coordination), but I think your suggestions would make more leadership by women possible.

  9. What I think would help is getting over the idea that no one can have close friends of the opposite sex, because it always wants to develop into something “more” (scare quotes intended). I hate the assertion, and bristle every time I hear it.

    We spend so much time being afraid that the other person will assault us/think we’re weird/think our gender makes us too different that we rarely have friends not of our same gender. Those of us who prefer friends of the other gender are rare.

    ‘Course, that’s why we have feminism; ’cause gender is the ultimate “other”.

    • Emily U says:

      Exactly the opposite. We have feminism because everybody’s human, even women.

      • I phrased it poorly. We have feminism because most believe gender is the ultimate other. Me, I prefer not to use the “even women” phrasing, as it places women as an other, an extra, a differentiation that the speaker even has to reinforce that women are human. Feminism is needed because everyone is human, full stop.

  10. Sonja says:

    I was in a mixed-gender Sunday School presidency once and I did indeed have sex with the first counselor.

    He was my husband. 🙂

    Can I still have the certificate?

  11. MDearest says:

    Thank you for bringing the hilarity today. Also, I qualify for your award, against all odds.

    However, when the real (though statistically small) risks of male-female proximity are brought up as an argument against having mixed-gender presidencies, why is it never considered a risk that, in Mormon ecclesiastical practice, it is the norm for one man to privately interview as he deems necessary, any and all women in a ward about their sexual life, one at a time, alone and behind closed doors? There are real risks associated with this practice, and yet we seem to be able to manage the hypotheticals well enough that nobody is bothered by this. So much so, that the outlier creeps who take advantage can quite often get away with it.

  12. Ziff says:

    Brilliant, April! Your certificate had me laughing out loud.

    An issue that occurs to me is that keeping to all-female or all-male presidencies makes things extra hard for gay people to stop themselves from having sex with everyone. I guess it wouldn’t be the first time we set the Church up to make things difficult for gay people, I guess.

  13. Brad says:

    See? Keep your porn shoulders covered and no one has sex! The church is true!

    • Nan says:

      I’ve worked in a mixed sex office for years and worn sleeveless shirts AND skirts inches above the knee, never had sex with any of my male co-workers. Like others have said no one ever brought the subject up even the men who told me I looked nice.

  14. charlene says:

    Because of the nature of the work I do, sometimes I have to shut the door of the workroom while I am working. Today I was in a room with the door shut with just one man in the room with me! In fact, it is someone I work fairly closely with and talk to on a pretty regular basis.

    However, I followed your handy strategies and shockingly, on this occasion as on every other previous occasion we have worked together, we did not have sex! Then another man came into the room. Shockingly, we also did not have sex, nor did the two men have sex with each other.

  15. Jeff G says:

    This post seems to assume that sex is the only evil that might tempt us. If I were to, as a married man, behave with women other than my wife in the same ways that I behaves with my wife before we were married, I think we would all agree that I’d done something quite wrong. Sex is only a small part of the danger. Inappropriate intimacy is the real danger and the slope which lead to it are very slippery indeed.

    • Nan says:

      So you are saying you have trouble working with women without behaving as though they are your wife? Can’t say I’ve ever had a man behave towards me as though I was his wife, but then I would have no idea how any given man interacts with his wife. If people can’t behave appropriately with the opposite sex it’s not a problem with mixed groups, it’s a lack of scruples, ethics, morals on the part of those behaving inappropriately. People who think that men and women shouldn’t work together or share a ride or any of a hundred daily activities, because they may behave inappropriately should be onboard with the government limiting portion sizes of food and beverages because people eat too much.

  16. Melody says:

    You’ve knocked it out of the park again, April. Thank you.

  17. BtDt says:

    Hmmm. Maybe all those guys committing adultery are really just so desperate for a change of calling that they’re trying the Sticks Approach?

    Having shared a cubicle with a person-of-the-opposite-sex in a high-stress, long-hours, late-night occupation (yes, the sun went down, yes, it was after 10 p.m., yes we ate meals together and passed the time of day conversing about many things other than the job at hand), do we both get double gold stars for having remained fully clothed, on task, not distracted and good friends for several years? (On the other hand, maybe people *should be required* to share cubicle spaces if they’re working in presidencies. Have to learn to get along and you know everything about each other pretty quickly.)

  18. Janie says:

    “However, romance can be ever present within the workplace and may be no further away than the next desk. A 2006 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that as many as 40 percent of workers had had an office romance.” Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

    • Cruelest Month says:

      The SHRM study also found that 30% of interoffice romances led to marriage. Quick, we must establish mixed presidencies in all singles wards. 30%!!!! We can save marriage by establishing mixed presidencies.

  19. Patty says:

    Edgy and funny. LOVE the certificate!

  20. Violadiva says:

    Sometimes I think we obsess over “avoiding the very appearance of evil” to the point that we call “good evil and evil good.” Believing that I can’t be alone in a room with another Mormon man (except the bishop) (but I’m alone with non-Mormon men in professional settings occasionally) creates an irrational fear, or unnecessary anxiety when I am in the circumstance to be alone with a Mormon man. Like when I’m the first woman to show up for Ward Council, I can suddenly get very self-conscious and have an engrained script of irrational fears creep up, “Oh gosh, the EQ press is really eyeing me today. I’d better avoid him so he doesn’t get the wrong idea.” Do we really have so little faith in one another that we can’t trust ourselves and other members to behave like rational adults, rather than sex-crazed teenagers? It wounds our ability to develop sincere friendships and see one another for how they look in their hearts. Occasionally with my assignments from the ward council to prepare a portion of an activity, or present at a 5th Sunday meeting, I’m required to work and coordinate with one of the men from the council. In the back of my mind, the default setting is to think, “I hope his wife is okay with this. I’ll make sure to cc her in on any emails I have to send her husband.” Rather than helping me feel more Christlike and loving toward all members of the church, regardless of gender, this policy sets me on edge and cripples my ability to act on my good intentions without inhibitions. Whether or not the policy actually prevents adultery, it certainly prevents sincere fellowship and friendship developing among our membership.

  21. Kate says:

    I definitely think emphasis needs to be on trusting your spouse and other grown adults instead of emphasizing that all men and women have the potential to have sex so just quarantine genders to make it less likely. I think talks like this (linked below to a speech by Benson) were so common before that it just got drilled into a lot of older members that spending time with the opposite sex means you’ll eventually have sex, which is obviously just not true.


  22. Dave says:

    As a man, I served in the nursery many years ago with one on one with three different sisters ( one close to my age, one just out of young women’s, and one newly married)at times I was a little uncomfortable with the younger sisters, I really prefer to minimize my one on one time with women who are not family

  1. December 16, 2014

    […] I’d like to hear from the two women that serve on a board with men! And even though they are a mixed gender board they all remain active in our church!!!! Namely, Ann Madsen and Amy White from the Sunday School General […]

  2. December 30, 2014

    […] But What if Everyone Has Sex? by April Young […]

  3. February 1, 2019

    […] LDS men and women interact in a neutral space, both are taught to expect (and fear) temptation and conditioned to perceive sexual tension, as though neither sex is in control of their attraction or behavior. It negatively affects […]

Leave a Reply to Janie Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.