I don’t know if what I’m going to write represents more than just me. Maybe I’m alone in feeling this way, but it doesn’t matter. I need to write this for me. Maybe it will let me move past one more barrier of anger and pain. And maybe, if I’m not alone, it will make a difference for someone.
If you were to meet me in person, you would never guess that I have a deep hollow wellspring of pain. And when you read these words online, if you know my previous writings, you could probably chalk that pain up to my divorce. But you would be wrong. My ex-husband is just one data point on a vast continuum of experience. It isn’t my ex. It’s you, men of the Priesthood.
When I was a teenager and watched the boys around me turn into men, I noticed how they looked at girls. Because I was a bit of a tomboy, I also heard it. There may be women out there who don’t get it, but I think they are few. You think that looking at female bodies, those little “jokes” about “wanting some of that,” go unheard, but they don’t. We seem to ignore them, but they stick.
If you’re a good guy, you’re probably saying to yourself right now “at least I’m not one of those scummy guys who only value women for their looks.” But it’s not just the so-called scums. It’s our brothers, fathers, sons, priesthood leaders. Look at this bishop in the LDS church, teaching women that they exist to be beautiful. If it were only the scummy men, it wouldn’t hurt so much. But it’s our priesthood leaders, those who have made covenants to represent the Father.
I have one profile on a dating site. I don’t use it very much, but every once in awhile I check it. I don’t get many messages, but all of the ones I get could be summed up like that. “You’re beautiful.”
When a man tells me I’m beautiful, he’s saying nothing about me. All he is telling me is that he is attracted to me. I may be the only female on this earth who doesn’t find that flattering. In my experience, telling me I’m beautiful is supposed to create an unspoken debt. I’m supposed to be gratified that someone finds me physically attractive. Maybe if I were one of those girls who spend hours on their appearance, I would be. But I find other things more important.
If the man who told me that really knew me, was commenting on more than just my looks, I imagine it would be different. But I’ve never had someone who knew me tell me that.
Men of the Priesthood, Do Better
When a man who not only holds the priesthood, but is the priesthood leader of a singles ward tells me that I’m beautiful because I’m a woman, and goes on to describe my theoretical physical beauty, it breaks my heart. I know in my heart I’m not physically perfect. I don’t have what men value, if that is all a woman is.
But more, a man who stands in the stead of God should see ME. My looks, whether a man thinks they are beautiful or not, are not a commodity. I don’t spend much time or money decorating them. I don’t sell them. They are temporary, subjective, and worthless to me.
When that man, representative of most men in my experience, quotes the Family Proclamation to the World about procreation, and then tells me that my physical appearance is a message I send that makes men want to possess me, I’m terrified.
As a woman, I know that I am physically weaker. That knowledge is always with me. If a man wants, he can take. There is little I could do to stop him, even though I’m taller than most women. And I have met many men who believe they have the right to take what they want.
They may be right. I may be nothing more than an accessory, of diminishing value as I age. Men may be different than women in that they feel they have a right to “possess and caress” the women they like to look at. But that doesn’t make it okay. To the contrary, it shows me how the Priesthood is in part an invitation to men to see something more than that in their sisters. The Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God is a better way.
Hoping for More
In my life, I married a man who just wanted to possess me. Deluded by movies and books where strong men restrain themselves in order to protect and care for a woman they value, I thought that the mere desire to possess meant value. It doesn’t.
Children want the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, but that doesn’t mean they value them. The man I married manipulated me, used me, broke me, and discarded me when I was no longer valuable. In dating after my divorce, I’ve searched for a man who was different, but haven’t yet found one.
I have never had a man who was attracted to me able to see me as a person. I’ve been put on pedestals and knocked down from them to be replaced with a better model of their ideal. It wasn’t just my ex. It was every man I’ve ever seriously dated. Can you imagine what that feels like? To believe in your heart that you are worth more than an appendage to another person, but not being able to find evidence of it anywhere? I was either not worth their time, or I was an object to be possessed. I was never a woman, with hopes, fears, weaknesses, and strength.
My experience tells me that bishop is right. Men are just like that. I despair, because if men ARE like that, if it is as true as this bishop and my experience tell me, I will never be able to marry again.
I have tried, again and again, to find some element of hope. To believe that it is possible to trust a man to see me as a person even when he is attracted to me. But, I have found too little evidence of it, only men who have learned after marriage to see more than a possession in their wives. (And I’m grateful for at least that much evidence, though it has nothing to do with me.)
My heart is dying, “pierced with deep wounds.” And I don’t know what more I can do to heal without finding a man who can be my friend, show me that there is more to men than a desire to possess.
Watching the men around me, I see pornography, abuse, possessiveness, objectification, denigration and disgust of women. Men of God can be better than that, can’t they? I know women are not any better than you. We objectify, too. I’ve seen that as much as I’ve seen it in you. But you have the priesthood. Do you not understand what this means? At least in part, it means that YOU represent Jesus Christ. How you treat us is our only example of how God sees us.
We women have to search to see ourselves in the gospel, but it is built around you. Please, try to see us as people. Try to be more than your desire to possess.
I’m not asking that you never feel attracted to women. I’m just asking that you look beyond it to the people we are. Realize that your attraction is about YOU. It says nothing about us. We are daughters of our Heavenly Parents. Some of us long for men to take their priesthood seriously, wishing we could draw upon those powers of heaven. Some of us pour our hearts out in prayer, aching for an opportunity to serve the Father in Heaven as the priesthood lets you serve. Don’t take it for granted. Realize you are sons of our Heavenly Parents, who have been given a divine charge to act in the name of God on this earth, one that we don’t have.
Please, please see US and not yourselves in us.
We are capable of so much more than being looked at.