Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

Book Review: And They Were Not Ashamed

by heather

This is not really my area of expertise and I generally don’t review books that I dislike so much that I can’t bring myself to finish them, but I have had several friends request that I review this book on my blog. So here we go…

When I decided that I wanted to talk about rape culture to my Young Women, my bishop recommended that
I read And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment by Laura Brotherson. Ok, so I ordered it and started reading. No where in the table of contents or the index does it mention the word ‘rape’. As I read I became perplexed as to why he wanted me to read it, because I sure wasn’t comfortable talking to my Beehives about dysfunctional sexual relationships, and never at any point had I implied that things were not ok between me and my husband. I took a picture of the book and texted it to him to verify that this is the book that he wanted me to read. He confirmed that it was, but he couldn’t remember why. (Bless his heart, he really has a lot to deal with, and he is one of the sweetest most caring people that I know.) He called me back and told me that he wanted me to read pages 14-17. Hmmm. He wanted me to buy a textbook to read 2 1/2 pages. I had heard and read many people rave about this book, so I kept reading.

Before I talk about what I disliked about the book, I really do admire the author for starting the conversation. Sex is not openly discussed in Mormon (and conservative Christian) culture and that can lead to problems. All kinds of stories can be found of couples who were unhappy with their relationships, but were too afraid to discuss it. Too many people have had it drilled into them since childhood that “Sex=The Greatest Sin Next To Murder”, that when they get to a stage in life where it is appropriate, they are too uncomfortable to enjoy it. There are many stories of naive LDS kids who walk into marriages without having a clue about sex, and worst of all there are many kids from a variety of religious backgrounds who have been abused, but because they are afraid to talk about sex, they are afraid to get help. Those are the ones I really worry about. In order to help them, we as a society have to be capable about talking about sex in a healthy manner. (I think that was the point my bishop was getting at, but it’s not one that was exactly spelled out in the book.) We need to able to name body parts without giggling or getting embarrassed. As I mentioned in my post on rape culture, rape culture thrives in cultures where sex is not talked about. To raise our children to happy well-adjusted adults, we need to talk to them about sex. They need to hear it from adults who know what they are talking about, trusted and informed people that they feel they can turn to with questions. Otherwise their curiosity may lead them to other sources. Do we really want them learning ‘the facts’ from their friends? Or worse, do we want them turning to pornography to find the answers to their questions? To pretend that that is not happening is to ignore the issue. So props to Laura for speaking up.

I also appreciate that she views sex as a positive thing in a marriage, which it is. She brings up the idea that couple need to communicate about their intimacy, which is also very important. She also tries to emphasize the idea that it is important for women to enjoy sex. Agreed, there are some people in our society who completely ignore women’s sexuality. I also loved that she encourages husbands to help with kids and housework so that their wives may have more energy to be interested in intimacy. She also discusses the idea that our bodies are beautiful gifts that we should be grateful for. I can get behind these messages.

The first thing that bothered me is that the author makes several assertions that are not factual.

Men have a stronger libido than women. That’s a generalization. Making assumptions is not a very scientific way of looking at things. This statement may be true for some couples, but not all.

“If you do what comes naturally in lovemaking, almost every time you will be doing it wrong.” Who is she (or the doctor she was quoting) to tell a couple that they’re “doing it wrong”, if what they’re doing works for them?

It is impossible for a woman to orgasm in standard sexual positions. False. It may be easier in other positions, but again, generalizations are not very helpful.

The second thing that bothered me is the vague and cheesy metaphors. I really think that we should not use metaphors when talking about sex. No licked cupcakes, no crushed rose petals, no buttered bread, no candy bars in the toilet. We really need to stop trying to objectify sex.

Sex is like a symphony. Um no, I have spent a few years playing in the symphony and I have a healthy marriage. The two are nothing like each other, and the author never gives me any reasons to believe that they are.

“A woman’s arousal is like a gift, delicately wrapped in layers of tissue paper.” Huh?

“Men are like light-switches and women are like slow-warming irons.” Again, I don’t approve of making inaccurate generalizations about sex. Maybe this is true for some people sometimes, but not everyone.

At one point she compares sex to Twinkies. This one actually sort of made sense, but I still think that objectifying sex through metaphors is a bad idea.

Chapter 3 goes into a lot of detail about how to explore female masturbation without ever using the word ‘masturbation’. I find that to be somewhat deceptive, especially given the strong stigma against masturbation in Mormon and conservative Christian cultures. Now I think there are times when masturbation is completely appropriate. A woman who has experienced sexual assault or abuse may need to become comfortable with her own arousal without an audience. And studies have shown that masturbation in men can reduce the rates of prostate cancer. However, the author doesn’t mention these health benefits of masturbation, she just explains how to do it without giving it a name. Let’s be honest and call it what it is. I couldn’t bring myself to finish the book after that point. The overall writing style of the book is fluffy and overly wordy. This book does not need to be nearly 400 pages, the good ideas here can be communicated more succinctly.

The author is not a doctor or a therapist, her qualifications are that she got a  BS degree in Family Sciences from BYU and that she has had struggles in her own marriage, although she has done a great deal of research. Again, I applaud her for starting the conversation and listening to people who have problems, but I think that there have to be more helpful and better written books out there than this one. I’ve heard good things about the book Real Intimacy: A Couples’ Guide to Healthy, Genuine Sexuality
by a professor/therapist, a social worker and a therapist/social worker. All of the authors are Mormons living in Utah, so it’s possible that Real Intimacy might be a better answer for the target audience (conservative religious people who would like to learn how to improve intimacy in their marriage) who would be reading And They Were Not Ashamed, however I am not fully endorsing it because I have only read reviews and have not actually read the book myself.

One Response to “Book Review: And They Were Not Ashamed”

  1. […] Mom looks interesing (more Mormons in Switzerland…? Why haven’t I met them?). Oh, and getting book recommendations from your Bishop can be an interesting […]

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