Facts of Life for LDS Teens

Several years ago I was lucky enough to find a useful reference work in the discard pile at the Institute building.  I have never regretted acquiring About Life and Love: Facts of Life for LDS Teens by W. Dean Belnap and Glen C. Griffin (1969).  You know the authors speak with authority because they use initials, just like the General Authorities.  For today’s discussion we’ll focus on some key excerpts from chapter five “Especially for Girls.”  Read the assigned portions and then be prepared to complete the worksheet. Ready? Let’s begin.

The calling of a woman is not to govern and not to be the wage earner. 

When people speak of equality of the sexes they show that they don’t know what they’re talking about. The sexes are not, never have been, and never will be equal. They can’t be equal. . . No one will say that men and women are equal sexually, because it’s obviously not so. Man’s role is to govern, to work, to support himself and his family. He has the priesthood power. Men rule and run the world almost invariably with the sustaining reassurances of their female companions. Woman’s domain includes the spiritual activities of society and the home. She is the social standard bearer and the source of spiritual inspiration. We would like to make it clear that whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ has been operative in the world, woman has always had the same freedom that man has had, and has been respected by the Lord the same as a man has.

Remember that if you girls cannot do some things as well as your brothers or fathers can, also remember that they cannot do other things nearly as well as you can. If you can see yourself in the role of princess and queen with untold pleasures, satisfactions, and rewards your life will be much happier and more meaningful.

Young men do not have a strong paternal instinct. That is, they are usually not obsessed with the idea of rearing and protecting young. However, young men usually have a strong sex urge. Women, however, have a weak or moderate sex urge but a very strong maternal instinct. The maternal instinct in a woman is complimented by a strong urge for a man to show physical affection and love for his wife, especially by having sexual intercourse. Women also have a sex urge but fundamentally are not as interested in sex for its own sake as they are for the maternal instinct.

We are pleased with the new emancipation and freedom of the modern woman. Now you can speak and be listened to, you can go where you want, and do what you want and you can be educated where and when you want. If you wish, you may become a United States senator, an attorney, a doctor, or even a business tycoon. It is good that these possibilities exist. We feel, however, that these types of careers are not in the best spiritual and psychological interest of a young girl today.

Subjects such as history, government, chemistry, and physics may not seem to be directly useful in managing a home and family, but it should be considered that in addition to being the closest teacher of her children that a wife needs to be a good companion to her husband. He needs someone at home to tell of his interests, accomplishments and projects. We shouldn’t be afraid to learn some things that don’t seem important at the time.

Sex is quite a stimulating experience. . . [Harrowing tale of Debbie who starts off virtuous but because her father dies she becomes a harlot] The one boy Debbie felt she could trust above all others had taken advantage of her and had taken away her virginity. Debbie, after having once yielded, was not able to stop. She continued in the wrong direction so long before she found that she was on a one way street that it was too late to turn around. . . [she] now has an illegitimate child and a wrecked home life to show for it.

It might not be a bad idea to become known as a prude. This will convince the type of man that you really want to know that you are not cheap, handled, shoddy, on-sale goods. . . By following this guide, boys will want to know you because you are a person worth knowing and not because you are the sort of a person who can be counted on as a toy to play with in the back seat of an automobile for a few minutes’ excitement, giggles, and then embarrassment. Can you imagine yourself being that sort of soiled baggage?

If you’re going to be happy in life it is important to remember not to try to meet a man on his own terms.

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the author’s use of evidence in his discussion of sexual equality.  What self-evident facts support his claims?

2. With reference to specific works of historiography, explain which time periods in world history have featured women enjoying the “same freedom that man has had.”  Your essay should focus particularly on times when the Gospel of Jesus Christ was on the earth, so make sure to discuss gender equality in ancient Israel, the first century C.E., and the United States in the nineteenth century.

3. Write a personal reflection in which you link your personal happiness and meaningful life to imagining yourself as a princess or queen with untold pleasures.

4. Based on the text, speculate on the quality of the sex life between the authors and their wives. Presumably these virtuous men have limited their exploits to the marital chamber and have not been so uncouth as to ask other women about their experiences.  What can we infer about competence and satisfaction from the authors’ sweeping statements?

5.  Explain why it is a good thing for a woman to be able to speak, to obtain an education and to become a doctor, attorney or Senator in theory but not in practice? What is specifically valuable about the existence of a potential path that should nevertheless be carefully avoided?

6. How has your education prepared you to listen raptly to your husband telling you about his interests, accomplishments and projects? How much education is necessary for this to be successful? For instance, the author of this blog post has a PhD in history, a subject that is really not interesting to her husband at all.  Am I nevertheless better able to be a flattering listener? Or did I take things too far?

7.  What do we learn about human sexuality and the Atonement from Debbie’s sad tale?  Use the latest research to support the theory that being pressured into sex once causes you to become a nymphomaniac.  Explain how the Atonement does not apply to Debbie and that she was on “a one way street that it was too late to turn around.”  Do you think the Atonement applied to her boyfriend?

8. Think of some other adjectives we could apply to women who allow liberties. Next time, we’ll see if they are found in the “Especially for Boys” section, or if only girls become cheap, handled, shoddy, on-sale goods and filthy baggage!

9. What do you think the “type of man you really want to know” might be like?  He should know about history, physics, government and chemistry, and you should too, but not enough to meet him on his own terms.  He should think of you as a prude and while he wants you to be a toy to play with in the back seat for a few minutes of giggles, he should also be attracted to your lack of sexuality.  Draw a picture of this ideal man.

Note: You don’t actually have to complete this worksheet, but it might be useful to bring up in your next Relief Society book club meeting.

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21 Responses

  1. Merry says:

    Wow, I just… Wow!

  2. OregonMum says:

    Oh how I wish it was an onion article. Ugh.

  3. Maureen says:

    …and the authors are physicians, which might be the point…to add more authority. Painful to read.

    • Em says:

      I find it hugely comforting. After all, they would know if men and women are self-evidently not equal sexually. Thanks, science!

  4. Julie Moore says:

    What year is this again? Have I been only dreaming of some level of equality? Al

  5. EmilyB says:

    Ugh! Women as soiled baggage not made for careers? You can get an archived copy online. Title page says it wasn’t published but Deseret Book, meaning the church signed off on this—double ugh

    https://archive.org/details/aboutlifelovefac00beln

  6. Marcela P says:

    Repulsive.

  7. Ziff says:

    Yikes! This is bad. I love your discussion questions, though.

    In particular, among all the awfulness, this line is striking to me: “If you can see yourself in the role of princess and queen with untold pleasures, satisfactions, and rewards your life will be much happier and more meaningful.”

    It sounds like the authors are saying that they *know* that women won’t enjoy being second-class citizens of the church or the world, but could they please just *imagine* that they’re somehow revered in being treated as less important, so that everything can be so much easier? It’s like self-gaslighting!

  8. I was in high school at the time this book was published and thankfully, didn’t know about it. But in the LDS women’s lives who were of marrying age then, or starting families, I heard this kind of speech over the pulpit: “He treated me like a queen [while dating]”– this was considered the way to win a woman. Many LDS women were reading Helen Andelin’s “Fascinating Womanhood” and acting it out, trying to save their marriages. A newly married couple spoke in church, and he proudly said that he divorced his first wife after a short time because, basically, she wouldn’t wait on him. His next sweet young victim spoke, and made sure she cried about how sad her last job was. The church members seemed terrified of the Women’s Movement which was spreading rapidly, and the women appeared complicit in their own suffering. It made me sick, and my friends made fun of the Andelin book at sleepovers. We were stuck at an “in-between” time.

  9. Simply a sister says:

    My husband I were given this book by his parents just before we were married . It ended up in the garbage bin. This is in 1969.

  10. Anna says:

    I never read this book, but the teachings are totally familiar and not a bit shocking. It was what was taught back then. My mother was an angry feminist before there was a word for it, so I got her rants at home and this at church. It was a bit crazy making. Yup, late 1960s.

  11. MrShorty says:

    At the risk of speaking a male experience into a feminist space, there was one thing that really bothered me in this. The statement that men do not have a strong paternal instinct. Perhaps it is just the trouble with stereotyping, but I have always had a love of children and a desire and concern for the well-being of my own children. Perhaps I am atypical, but I bristled at the idea that men do not possess a paternal instinct.

    Another aspect of this particular issue is that, the way it is presented, it is as if the paternal/maternal instinct is somehow diametrically opposed to the sexual instinct. As if one can either be nurturing or sexual, but not both.

    • DB says:

      How can they possibly say that men don’t have strong paternal instincts? Do they not know what paternal means? Men may not have very maternal instincts but we certainly have paternal instincts!

  12. magentamidnightblue says:

    Exactly!

  13. Lunalupa says:

    I remember this book in our house. I was too young to read it, but my older sisters did. I can’t see how any of this could possibly be from our Heavenly Father, or part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All roles of the woman suggested are as an accessory to a man’s life – as a toy, sexual object, listener, wife or mother of offspring. She is not considered fully human in this essay.

  14. Dani Addante says:

    This sounds like an awful book! It makes it sound as if everything revolves around the husband’s interests. I once came across an lds book about marriage, in the thrift store, and I was flipping through it and I found a part that said something like, “Women should not be deciding what to do and where to go.” I was appalled and quickly put the book away because it was so offensive. I don’t remember what book it was or what year it had been published, but it’s sad that we sometimes come across these terrible things that some men write. How do these authors feel justified in writing a book that demeans women?

  15. cfg says:

    How can you prepare to know something about your husband’s career and interests before you have met him? Would my marriage have been happier if I had studied mathematics at the graduate level? He was/is interested only in a certain field of mathematics, not elementary school arithmetic or high school algebra. How could I have known?

    • Em says:

      Mom, I’ll be honest. The reason that marriage was awful was 100% because you were never very good at discussing algebraic topology. I never wanted to say it, but now that you’ve gotten there on your own I feel comfortable validating that conclusion. It is tricky, because AFTER you get your husband you have no business pursuing higher education, but before you meet him you should be preparing to please him. I guess if you had been more virtuous in college you would have been inspired to know exactly how much math to learn — enough to be a good listener, but not so much that you seemed threatening or uppity. Personally I’m just waiting for that magic moment when my husband has something to say about gender theory and I will leap into action, stare deeply into his eyes and NOD UNDERSTANDINGLY. Thanks, PhD!

  16. PJ says:

    LOL! That is all.

  17. Mormonish says:

    This was the unofficial companion volume to Fascinating Womanhood and Man of Steel and Velvet. The people who wrote those books, sold them, and taught from them should all be doing eternal penance about now. The publishers (Bantam Books and Deseret Book)…well…shame on them for shaming all of us. 🙁

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