Sex and the single Mormon

The Salt Lake Tribune/February 11, 2011

To many Americans, religious or not, chastity before marriage is a quaint tradition at best and emotionally damaging at worst.

After all, more than 90 percent of men and women, according to Guttmacher Institute surveys during the past 50 years, have reported engaging in premarital sex. And the older a single person becomes, many people believe, the more ridiculous it seems to forgo physical intimacy.

That's the perspective of Mormon poet Nicole Hardy, who, in a New York Times essay last month, described her decision to join the rest of the modern world.

"As I grew older, I had the distinct sense of remaining a child in a woman's body; virginity brought with it arrested development on the level of a handicapping condition," Hardy writes. "Too independent for Mormon men, and too much a virgin for the other set, I felt trapped in adolescence."

Hardy, who declined to be interviewed until her forthcoming book is out, had reached a point in her mid-30s at which she believed it no longer was worth holding out. Though she credited her church for giving her family stability and joy, those were not enough for the Seattle writer to remain chaste.

"I would have an IUD instead of children; I would have intellectual and spiritual freedom; I would write poems and finally live inside my body," she concludes. "I would, for the love of God, feel a man's hands on me before I died."

Hardy's essay, reprinted in other media outlets, swept across the Mormon bloggernacle - with online critics and defenders chiming in. They argued about her reasoning. They blamed her, not the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for her predicament. They said she misunderstood Mormon principles. Others told their own stories and empathized with her complaints. In other words, they felt - and lived - her pain.

Clearly, it struck an LDS nerve.

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