Thursday, April 07, 2005

Let's talk about... er, you know what

You can tell it's spring because the bloggernacle has turned to thoughts of, um, love. The General Conference thread at BCC has mutated into an referendum on Elder Oaks' infamous, infelicitous phrase. The discussion (242 comments and counting) has finally metastasized to the other copy-cat blogs (hey, Steve put me on the blogroll, I have to return the love).
As usual, I find myself outside the orthodox position on this issue. First of all, in an attempt to keep this discussion, as Seinfeld would say, sophisticated, I will employ various euphemisms. Many people seem to use the word "pr0n" but this always sounds like "prawn" to me; therefore, I will refer to the consumption of that particular media as "eating shrimp." And what goes hand-in-hand with this seafood? That's right, marination. Now that I've defined the terms, let's begin.
It seems weird to me that the General Authorities are always harping on shrimp consumption, but never seem to mention marination. Are they too embarrassed? I doubt it; they have been rather graphic at times. But they miss the main issue: the whole point of eating shrimp is the marination. No one eats shrimp because it's aesthetically pleasing. It's solely done to enhance the food preparation. So let's put the shrimp to the side for a moment, as it's ancillary to the real problem.
The real problem is that nearly every male in modern times marinates or has marinated at some time. For some people, that might be enough evidence to deem it natural or at least unavoidable. So what is the church's reaction to this omnipresent activity? It condemns it, of course, as part and parcel of the second-most serious sin possible. Innumerable local priesthood meetings are held to discuss it, innumerable man-hours are spent confessing to local leaders, and innumerable young men torment themselves over it. And all for what? For something that most people won't be able to control until marriage, if even then. In my opinion, this is just making people feel bad for no reason. I think you'll find a much healthier attitude outside of the church. It's something that is done and that's it; there's no need to dwell on it and let it consume our lives and destroy our marriages. As long as it's done in moderation, it doesn't seem to be a big problem.
However, when you make it strictly verboten, that's when even minor transgressions can flare up into addictions. Everyone is walking around all bottled up, like ticking time bombs. This is when the seafood comes into play. You catch the unmistakable scent of the ocean, and it's suddenly all you can think about. Since you are going to hell anyway for marinating, it's not that big of deal to add some shrimp on the barbie. You gorge yourself on shrimp since you know you are going to try never to eat it again after this meal. This is an unhealthy way to eat, and it's an unhealthy way to live. Young men get sucked into shame spirals that would not exist if they were only allowed to marinate like every other human on the planet. They would not want to gorge themselves on shrimp if they could simply eat a less pernicious form of seafood.
I think it is safe to say that soft shrimp (as defined by G.A.s, e.g. catalogues, certain Sports magazines, Maxim) hurts almost no one in its production, while hard shrimp hurts just about everyone. If we could only adjust our standards to be more realistic, we could go after some stuff that is truly ugly in this world. But as it is, we cast our nets too wide and they break with fish too small to fry.
This is just a plea for some understanding. Men will always have a taste for seafood. It's unavoidable. The church seems to think the best way to keep them from eating the poisonous fish is starving them. And then making them feel bad for being hungry. Isn't moderation in all things a healthier way to live?


Anonymous said...

Yes, but since when was the Church ever moderate in anything?

Also, I wonder if anyone else finds it disturbing that people on the other blogs are talking about covering their 3 year old girl's shoulders and belly buttons to teach them to respect their bodies. What?

The best thing about all this modesty talk is the poor women who listen to it will become such prudes and never be asked out on a date - let alone get married. And then she won't be able to fulfill her only purpose in life as a wife and mother.

Because all the self-righteous Mormon men are just as lecherous and horny as the non-Mormons, and they aren't attracted to women who dress in tents to hide their bodies.

Rusty said...

I dig the sophistocation. I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I don't think it's a good argument (or is it a defense? :) It's easy to come up with examples that moderation is not the best policy in ALL things (moderation in domestic violence, moderation in drugs, moderation in selfishness, moderation in being an asshole, etc.)

Additionally, the term "moderation" requires some kind of relative context. It's moderate compared to what? Sure, a little marination seems fine compared to all the marination that is going on and the nothing that Mormons are expected to do, but what about adultury? Where is the moderation curve?

Are you talking about the Church? Or the culture? I'd say that the Church is quite moderate on countless issues: politics, education, professional careers, church buildings, etc. It's too bad that you used only ridiculous cliches/stereotypes about Mormons, otherwise it could be an interesting conversation. But now, there is nothing really to respond to.

NFlanders said...

I appreciate your comments. It is hard to draw bright line limits on such a delicate topic. However, I think the difference for me is the following: domestic abuse and adultery hurt someone else. To my knowledge, marinating is not in itself hurtful to others (or yourself, hopefully). Excessive marination? Yes, bad. In moderation, without hard seafood? Not so bad (in my opinion of course). I just don't think stamping out marination is worth the resources we devote to it.

NFlanders said...

I agree, the talk about "modest" kids' clothes seems a little (ok, a lot) premature. Of all the things to worry about as a parent, I think that one would be the last.
I think people in general (and Mormons in particular) like it when we have clear cut rules. It makes it easier to know when you (and others) are off the path. The problem is that very few things in this world are ever that simple.

Anonymous said...

Rusty - sorry to offend. I didn't realize that my post was so rude, until I read it over. I was half-joking to myself as I wrote it, and didn't intend to be mean. Unfortunately, there's no tone to an email post, so you can't really tell what the person is trying to say.

That said, it would be nice if people could look beyond the rudeness of a post and address the substance. My general point was that I remember Mormon boys weren't very good at encouraging girls to be modest, since they always asked out (and then married) the sexy girls.

And I do think 3 years old is too young to be teaching modesty. Let them enjoy being kids for a few years.

Rusty said...

Good point about the "harmful to others". Though I still have a hard time imagining it being "acceptable" to marinate. Of course, I'm not really affected by the issue anymore now that I'm married :)

No problem. I wasn't offended, but I prefer your wording the second time around, it's more willing to converse :) And to your point about 3 year olds, I fully agree. I don't know what I'll do when I have kids, but it won't be that. I also agree that Mormon boys are no different than any other boys, we all want a beautiful woman. But I wouldn't agree that I (or my other friends) wanted them to dress immodestly. You can tell a lot about a girl by the way she dresses and those that dressed immodestly generally weren't my type.

m said...

definitely agree about marination even after marriage. if i were to carry your analogy further i would say that you're not going to get a home cooked meal every night, so sometimes you've got to marinate your own steak, if you know what i mean.

and i understand why the people want to cover up their little girls' shoulders, they wouldn't want them to become prawns. ;-)

Anonymous said...

This is probably the most riotous, provacative, and subversive thing that has been published in the entire bloggernaccle. I mean that as a compliment. And I think I agree with you, though sometimes I don't. Marination can be a sacrilege, an abuse, a purversion, but it is not necessarily so, or always so. I am too shy, even when posting anonymously, to describe situations in which it is not. But I must take exception to your view that the shrimp issue is secondary to the marination issue. My spouse, who to me is the most holy and supreme arbeter of good and bad when in comes to the nitty-gritty of life, has absolute no problem with marination, though she absolutely abhors shrimp and would consider leaving me if it were part of my lifestyle. This has led me to take a similar view: shrimp is worse than marination; if only because it is worse for me and my relationship with my wife. Marination has never done any harm to me -- except for guilt which I am still not sure is justified or not -- nor my relationship with my wife (much the opposite, actually). I look forward to more comments.

Another Anon

not a prawn said...

Do all males really marinate? Being a somewhat sheltered single female, I have always taken the prohibitions against this at face value.

sjc said...

I think part of the problem is the church in general doesn't address the issue well. While I don't agree with moderation (where do you draw the line?,plus marination really can be addictive), I do think there is something to the last statement made in the original post.

I think not a prawn's question reflects the general lack of knowledge most members have on the subject. It's such an uncomfortable topic and so taboo that many (especially young men) can't reconcile their reality with the stern warnings of church leaders never to marinate. Most pretend it's not an issue with them and continue guilt-ridden, frustrated and confused. Some young men don't know how common it is because it is taught as if only a certain few spiritually weak young men have ever done it or are doing it. This is misleading to say the least. But there's no meaningful discussion about it within the church. I mean the fact that we can't even say the word reflects how taboo it is. The world outside the church seems much more in tune with the reality on this one, sorry to say, and has been for a while. We still issue the pamphlet "To Young Men Only" for crying out loud to somehow address this issue. I received that pamphlet at 18 (which wasn't too long ago by the way), and not only did it really not help me much, it showed how out of touch the church appears on these subjects.
I have to say though, my point is we should address the issue better but I don't think moderation in marination is the best policy.

NFlanders said...

Interesting comments. I partly agree with SJC: it would extremely helpful to have an adult conversation about this in the church. Maybe we can alleviate some of the guilt and shame people feel by being more realistic in our expectations.

That's why I welcome Not A Prawn's question. If no one ever talks about it, many women are going to be surprised and possibly hurt when they discover that their husbands are "marinating their own steak" to use M's phrasing.
I can't claim to speak for everyone, but it is my distinct impression that just about every man has marinated at some time in his life. I've never met anyone inside or outside the church who claimed he hadn't (though it's not like this comes up everyday). I know for a fact that many good and successful missionaries struggle with this problem on their missions. It's just the logical result of young men who are in their prime with no outlets for their food preparation desires. And, as M mentioned, even if you are married, you might often need to cook for yourself.

Another Anon has a good point in that we need to be in agreement (and honest) with our spouses about food marination. I think a lot of honesty all the way around could really help this situation.

Sal said...

This discussion reminds me of an old LDS joke about how after zone conference interviews, missionary elders are so amazed at their mission president's gift of discernment because "he knew exactly what particular sin I've been struggling with!" Of course, everyone got the same interview.

Stephen said...

The reason people don't use the word "porn" is that many spam filters block it, just FYI.

For a variety of reasons, addiction to pornography causes a number of addictive problems that other things appear not to cause.

Not that this wasn't a funny post, but it missed the entire point of the issue which has to do with addictive behavior that often has nothing to do with "marination" but that often results in abusive behavior.

Anonymous said...

I live in Europe. Everybody walks around naked.

Spas are everywhere-co-ed.

No big deal.

Check out these people for a super-moderate viewpoint:

BTW--the phrase "moderation in all things" doesn't come from the scriptures, anywhere.

Anonymous said...

the apostle uchtdorf is pornography to me
seeing his hot self in his suit on the cover of my conference edition makes me want to marinate

NFlanders said...

Well, the comments certainly didn't go the way I thought they would (but with 15 comments, who can complain?)

I am aware that "moderation in all things" comes from ancient Greek philosophers, but I don't think that its origin invalidates it as a wise piece of advice.

Stephen-- What I worry about is that shrimp addiction doesn't seem to be as big a problem outside of the church. I worry that the church is contributing to shrimp addiction with it's zero-tolerance policy.
As I said in my original post, there is some truly pernicious shrimp out there, but I don't think it's the soft stuff. I may be wrong, but I think that if we had a more normal marination policy, people wouldn't be pushed into the more extreme forms of shrimp.

And just for the record, Maude and I do not advocate "Chaste Nudity" (all I can say is YIKES!).

Stephen said...


having lived in Europe for a while, all I can say is that with some nudity, you've got to run for cover ... (argh ... soviet block families -- family nude beaches since only the party members owned swimming suits ... people fatter than I am, in worse shape ... my eyes, my eyes ....).

I never connected the prawn with marination until a roommate made a comment when I was 26 or 27. Now I feel like I was pretty unobservant, but we are all clueless in our own ways.

The "soft" playboys sold for a generation, and sold well, so I'm not sure the hard porn is really inculcated by anything but a growing roughness in society. I don't know.

But I can agree that "chaste nudity" is scary stuff.

Especially in areas where people average a bath once every 14 days or more.

fMhLisa said...

I really liked this post, and agree with a lot of what you say. I have absolutly no problem with marination. And I think people who assert it is addictive haven't done their homework. It's no more addictive than water.

And it's not just teen boys. Three-year-olds marinate, monkeys marinate, women marinate. It actually bothers me a lot that in so many of these little food talks you boys assume women don't like to eat as much as you do. Women like food too.

However I abhor shrimp.
It makes men view women as menus rather than as human beings. I don't know how much the two issues are linked. It would make an interesting study to be sure. I wonder if it were proved that men who marinated regularly were less drawn to shrimp, if the church would relax its stand.

I'm not a big fan of soft shrimp either. It still hocks women like cheep fish sticks. There have been definitive studies on this, and the more that men eat shrimp, soft or hard, the less likely they are to hold positive views of women.

Mike said...

From Agnot there are some pretty good comments on this including the dichotomy we use in talking about sex and how it is hard to suddenly not view the body as dirty once you are married.
But more relevant-
"in the few confessional situations with which I am familiar, marination is not given the dark, evil weight familiar in other venues. In fact, almost nothing is done about it."

I think part of that is due to very few things being as dark as they are treated in other venues. When you go to a priesthood leader typically the response is along the lines of "well, what needs to change and how can God help you make those changes?"
However- I think there is some discrepency in terms of response and church action from Bishop to Bishop. Ranging from some Bishops saying something along the lines of "well, try not to" to some taking away a temple recomend and requiring a few months without marination before it is given back.

Whether or not the Church in general should change its stance on marinating I really can't say. I think the prohibition is fine- but I also think that people should understand not to beat the crap out of themselves because of guilt.

That aside I must join the chorus in saying that the eating shrimp isn't a problem because of marination- or even primarily because of marination. I think there are a number of reasons that even the fairly soft seafood is spiritually damaging and the marination is only part of it. In the October priesthood session President Hinckley talked about unrealistic expectations that eating shrimp creates.

I think with both marination and with eating shrimp the biggest thing that would help is not to say- yeah it's fine or to come down hard the way we seem to- but to have more open discussions about sex and sexuality. Yes- it is important to not divorce sex from its intended purpose but I think there has to be at least some discussion beyond the cursory about that intended purpose.

But maybe I'm wrong. Who knows, that kind of discussion might just lead to more marination.

NFlanders said...

Interesting comments, Lisa and Mike. I hesitate to bring this up, but I think it needs to be explored in the wake of recent comments.
Let me start off with the standard disclaimer. Hard-shell prawns have very pernicious consequences in their manufacture and thus also for their consumers.
But when I mentioned soft-shell prawns earlier, I was using the GA's definition of shrimp, not the world's definition. Do I think Sports Illustrated and underwear catalogues count? No, but the Church seems to think so. I also understand that many women find these displays offensive in their objectification of women.
I would just like to float this as a possibility: that the reason many women have a revulsion to these super-soft-shell crabs is simply the fact that they can't relate to the extremely visual nature biologically ingrained in most men. Obviously, they also object to the tackiness, and the aforementioned objectification. But while most women can relate to the desire to marinate, this other problem is wholly foreign to most.

Mike said...

I agree that most women don't understand the visual desire- but some do. And despite the lack of understanding- I think that there is legit reason for women to be bothered by even the softest shelled shrimp.

Things that are designed as marination fodder (SI swimsuit issue) and things that are designed for that purpose but also to sell with sex through a falsely created immage of women (victoria's secret catalouges) are possibly spiritually damaging to individuals and to society as a whole.

A false standard is created. A false version of sexuality, a false version of women, a false objectification- and all of these unrealistic false standards become the real standards for individuals and for society at large.
These standards and images are impossible for real people to live up to- even the models who were in the immages aren't nearly so perfect, aren't nearly so hypersexual, etc. etc.
This impossible standard is damaging not just becasue it is impossible for individual women to reach- but because it causes us as men and society as a whole to have our priorities in a rather strange order.

NFlanders said...

I appreciate your comments, Mike. I don't think I agree with you but I am glad you are making your point.

If I understand you correctly, I think that you are objecting to the atmosphere in these no-shell crabs, not the actual human form. I'll have to think about this one for a while. I am not certain my feelings on this issue are resolved.

My question is where we draw the line. Does admiring any human beauty create unrealistic expectations? I don't think so. I understand that I am not married to a model, and I wouldn't want to be married to one even if I could. I think it is very hard to tease out the difference between no-shelled crabs with bad atmosphere and just plain beauty.

Mike said...

"I think it is very hard to tease out the difference between no-shelled crabs with bad atmosphere and just plain beauty."

I agree, and was hoping you would call me on that.

I have mixed feelings. I think there are things that are art- there is the appreciation of beauty, etc. that are just fine- but it is very hard to know where to draw the line.

There are things that seem to reinforce false societal standards of beauty that are fine because they are clearly "art" and somehow higher than simple soft core.

But what about the things you mention- like underwear ads, etc? I think that the marination may be a big part of the problem- but not just because marination is happening- but because there is not just an appreciation of beauty- but appreciating it and objectifying a person or a class of people for personal gain or pleasure. This combined with the false standards created is problematic.

But what about non-art (or art for that matter) images that are not part of the false societal standard? What if somebody likes women much larger than the current societal standard of beauty? Does it make it "less bad" or "less harmful" to the individual, to women, to society, etc. if someone is looking at the plus size fruit of the loom ads rather than the victoria's secret catalogue?

I think it may be less harmful to society in that a false, overly skinny, body image is not reinforced. However- I still don't think we can look at it as harmless. Someone looking at women for the purpose of objectifying is doing so whether those women are thick or thin.

From a Church standpoint, there are pretty clear doctrinal standpoints against objectifying others. Beyond that, I think the stand against shrimp of all types stems from the same argument expressed by the Vatican in its opposition to birth control... separating sex and sexual pleasure from God's intended purpose for such.
Catholic doctrine looks at it primarily as pro-creation. We go a bit further and discuss the importance of building an eternal relationship between a husband and wife, etc. But we feel clearly that not only should sex occur only between a married couple- but that their sexual affection, sexual drives, sexual desires should be for one another.

Now a lot of people may argue that to not fantasize about others, to not have sexual desires for many different people, and to not develop those is un-natural and to expect people to do so would be as absurd as the Catholic church opposing condom distribution.

I don't really agree with those people- yet I also don't know that I fall in with the hard-liners either.

All of that out of the way, I didn't notice the double entendre in: "I also think that people should understand not to beat the crap out of themselves because of guilt." until after I posted it.
Did any one else find it funny in a horrible sort of way- or do I just have the sense of humor of a 14 year old?

J. Stapley said...

I can't believe I missed this post. kudos to Dave for listing it at BT. Ned, you have done a great service in this post - balancing our aversion to discuss with an hilarious metaphore. Absolutley brilliant.

I'm not sure what I think about this, or where I will end out. I do think that shrimp in all their sundry incarnations are never good. But I also think one man's shrimp is another man's crawdad. In many instances an indavidual can twist something perfectly normal into shrimp.

Marination is simply so difficult to talk about, that I can't even concieve of a healthy dialogue, or what it might be like.

For those interested, here is an interesteing Dialogue article that very much relates:

Anonymous said...

Wise advice a stake president gave to a new bishop re: asking youth about marination:

"Don't even bother asking. Only a few will admit it, and the rest will lie and say no."

Anonymous said...

That's interesting advice. Our recently released stake president here used to advise bishops not to ask the youth _if_ they marinate, but _when_ they marinated last.

Anonymous said...

One student in my high school told a group of students that he had never marinated. Because I believed him, I believe that there are some males who do not marinate. Since I have been married, I have been more successful in marinating less frequently, and I can sometimes measure the interval in years rather than days, but there is no guarantee that the last time will really be the last time. After reading about apparent effects on health, I have some doubts about whether avoiding marination is really a good idea.

NFlanders said...

That is a good point about the prostate health benefits of regular marination, but I don't know if that can hold up. After all, a glass of wine helps your heart, but I don't forsee that becoming legal any time soon.
I just saw a Mrs. Dash commercial that asked "Too busy to marinate? Now you can marinate in minutes."
Maude didn't understand why I was laughing.