Violating the Friend Zone

Listener Essay

Posted January 18th, 2015

An Infants on Thrones first: two guys, three girls.

And one very brave listener essay.

Nancy, you left us all a little speechless (but, obviously, we all got over it).

Listen in as Matt and Glenn are joined by Kim, Melissa, and Nancy to discuss Nancy’s listener essay: Violating the Friend Zone.

  • Susan Mowers

    (Woot! First comment!) Okay, this podcast was “brilliant” (yes, Matt-Chelsea)! The part about a more complete sex education is just so important and something we don’t ever seem to get, even as we grow to adults. Sex education is more than just “mechanics”, but in emotions, hormones, how to communicate, how to ask permission. Instead our culture seems to shout “You should just know, idiot!” Totally over-stimulated and under-educated, which is just a recipe for disaster. Leads to a culture where sexual assault and abuse happen without any solutions.

    A bit more about myself than I normally share in a public forum, but I think it’s relevant… as a single Mormon woman who never got married, where my sexual side was totally repressed, I decided as part of working through my faith transition to work with a sex surrogate partner (in conjunction with a sex therapist). Best decision I ever made. And best sex education you can ever get! (I really recommend it for everyone!)

    I have family members and friends who have been raped and sexually assaulted, and as I started venturing out to dating outside of church I found myself in situations where I wasn’t even sure how I got there. So I knew that for myself I really needed to get educated in a safe emotional and physical place, with a professional who had my best interests at heart. It was a place where I could practice everything about sex, including how to communicate clearly with all sorts of touch (sexual and non-sexual) including saying yes and saying no.

    Anyhoo… just reiterating that learning how to communicate about everything, EVERYTHING, in regards to touching, sex and relationships can’t happen soon enough and can’t be talked about too much. So…more sex podcasts, more!

    • Kim

      Thank you for sharing this! In some cultures sexual surrogates were part of the initiation into adulthood (for both men and women). I think there is something truly beautiful about it. In today’s age, you of course must be very careful if that is the route you choose. But it sounds like you took a well-thought out and professionally supported experience with it. Good for you. I’m so happy to hear about anyone who experiences a beautiful and gentle initiation into the world of healthy sexuality.

      Although different, your post reminded me of a post written for the NY Times by a single Mormon woman. I love this, her writing, and imagery. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/fashion/09Modern.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      • Susan Mowers

        Thanks Kim! I LOVE Nicole Hardy! When I read her book “Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin” I cried and laughed and had many palm to face moments. It really captured so much of my experience as a single “older” Mormon gal. I actually gave a copy to my parents and another sibling that is still TBM as a way to “come out” to them and tell them about my faith crisis.

        • Kim

          Thanks for the tip on her book. I had only ever read the NY Times piece.

        • JH

          Susan, I also loved Nicole Hardy’s book and her NY Times piece. As an older single woman (for Mormons), her experiences and doubts really resonated with me.

          I also left the church and now, as a 32-year-old single woman with no sexual experience, the prospect of dating in the non-Mormon world is liberating but also terrifying. I would love to hear more of your story if you were willing to share.

          • Susan Mowers

            You know, I actually recorded a listener essay about my struggles with sexuality as a single in church, but I never submitted it. Perhaps I will now.

            And if it helps I’d definitely be willing to share more about my surrogate experience with you. It’s something I really want to share (as part of my processing it), but just haven’t been sure what the right venue to share it is…

          • JH

            Thanks for your response! I am definitely in favor of you submitting your listener essay. I’ve thought about doing one before but have yet to do it. I did record a Mormon Voices on the topic. Few people understand how difficult it is to be Mormon and single so I think more awareness needs to be raised.

            I would be happy to share my email address with you if you are okay with telling me more about your experiences. Are you on Facebook? I could send you a private message. If that doesn’t work, I really don’t mind sharing my email here.

          • Susan Mowers

            I am on Facebook, so send me a message for sure!

          • Susan Mowers

            Don’t know if you tried to reach me on FB yet. I’m in Reno, if that helps. Or you’re welcome to share with me your email (and once I have it I’ll let you know and you can edit that out of your post.)

          • JH

            I did! I sent you a FB message yesterday but I think now maybe it didon’t go through… I will send it again!

          • JH

            I just sent it again– if it still doesn’t go through, feel free to send me an email at jamielyn_26@yahoo.com.

          • Susan Mowers

            Crazy – I didn’t get it, so I sent you an email. 🙂

    • Nancy

      Susan!! Such a wonderful share! Thank you for your honesty and openness. What a great success story. I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast. And I agree, MORE sex podcasts!

      • Susan Mowers

        Thank you Nancy for your share to get this whole ball rolling! I’m glad too that there were so many women on the podcast as well. Sometimes I think it’s hard for guys to understand the powerlessness we women feel in situations, and how scary that is – how even walking to your car at night alone can be tense. I’m soooo glad you shared your experience, even though (and especially because) it wasn’t rape, because it went to the deeper issue. Your story showed that loss of control you had and how horrible it can be as a woman, and that if we’re going to change the tide it has to come from that understanding.

        I spoke with someone very close who had been in a sexually abusive relationship for many years, and as we talked about my experience with my sex surrogate, it opened up more conversation about us as women being in situations, where maybe there wasn’t rape, but the pressure and emotional manipulation for us to do something we weren’t okay with was there, but then we think, “Well, I guess it’s my fault, because I wasn’t clear.” She felt strongly that any form of sexual pressure or manipulation was abusive (rightly so in her case), but I think it comes back to both boys and girls, men and women, truly learning how to communicate about sexuality in every sense, how to accept no’s, how to ask for things, what they feel about their own bodies.

        I feel that in today’s society (not just Mormonism) we create our own problems in society with sex because we’ve got this puritan attitude surrounding it, where we practically don’t even acknowledge it’s there. So again, thanks for bringing your experience to light, which sparked a more frank discussion.

  • Allison

    I haven’t even finished listening to the whole episode yet, but I had to stop and say thank you to Nancy for sharing her story. This experience you encountered (twice) definitely isn’t something confined to mormon adolescent men exclusively. It’s a big problem for everyone. Thank you for your candor and your bravery.

    • Nancy

      Thanks Allison! (and you’re welcome…that feels weird to say) I’m happy to help move the conversation to the forefront. I know that people of all backgrounds need a nudge to talk openly about sex/abuse/uncomfortable topics.

  • DaughterOfIshmael

    I loved this discussion. I have a bad habit of sometimes yelling out my own experience and thoughts in the middle of listening to these podcasts. What I wanted to share is when I was a teenager and dating my current spouse before he left on his mission, we were one day sitting together on a computer chair. His dad, a high councilman, came in and proceeded to tell me, in front of his son, that it would be my fault if we had sex, that sitting like that was unfair of me, and that he couldn’t help it, it would be all my fault. I was livid. If he had taken us aside individually and told him to be careful and told me to be careful, I could understand that. I was taught the way I dressed, the things I did would make the males around me sin. They couldn’t help it. I wasn’t supposed to even think about sex, cause that was as bad as having sex. Which was next to murder. Anyway, great discussion. Also, garments are so unsexy. Taking those off helped my body image so much.

  • Sean

    You got into a brief discussion on memory and trauma that I wanted to comment on. I am a child and family clinician and a PhD student and have worked with Trauma for a number of years. I think discussing forgotten memories as solely a protective mechanism of the brain misses some key points. There is also perhaps this odd assumption imbedded that the brain knows best, protects and heals when ready…and does so in this beautiful well timed way that really works well for movies based on Nicholas Sparks books…typically the type of movie that if I’ve watched it’s because I had nefarious designs on the ‘friend’ I had seen it with. However, this negates how the brain actually works in a lot of ways. Understanding the brain and arousal is an interesting discussion relevant to both discussing trauma and the Jack the Mormon to Jack Mormon to Jack the Ripper transformation described in the 50 shades of friend zone discussion. As arousal increases in the brain, the functioning of the brain shifts. We have less access in moments of intense arousal to higher cognitive functions; some of which include the ability to piece together clear narratives, organize time and place, make decisions based on predictions of the future and more. Further, as a basic response to “wow this felt shitty and I could have died”, the brain attaches emotion to as much stimuli related to the shitty situation as possible (Emotion, as described by Panksepp, as physiological responses to move us towards things good for us and the species and away from things bad for us and the species). Hence, traumatic memories are not recorded or experienced the same as typical memories that were less traumatic (like the time I was eating lunch and witnessed a rollerblade live action role play (LARP) group with one LARPer carrying a boom box supplying Katy Perry as a backdrop for the ballet of fantasy and the promise of years more of virginity unfolding in front of me… I remember that clear as day because it was amazing and not emotionally overwhelming). Where brain behaviours may also tie into the rapey behaviours is that when we are taught, as I was, that sexual impulses are of the devil (as opposed to say a biological process to keep our species going) and from the devil and not a complex cocktail of hormones in the brain, experience, brain development, and images shared in schoolyards (replace with ‘on iPhones at every minute of every day’ for our current generation of youth) a dangerous disconnect between ourselves and our bodies may occur. I think this is a key feature in why addiction within the church, in my view, is so poorly dealt with.

    • Kim

      Agree. Doing podcasts for me is tough because you start down a path of discussion, but then the conversation organically changes to another discussion. This is totally fine and enjoyable, but it does leave other areas hanging. You are correct that as it stands what I said could be interpreted as implying that the brain has a thoughtful clear process of how to manage trauma. I definitely didn’t mean that. It’s messy and complicated and unique to the person, the developmental age, the support system, and the traumatic event. Thank you for pointing this out.

      • Sean

        Sorry Kim, I absolutely did not mean to imply that you were coming from that place, I just worry that those outside the field can interpret it this way. Loved the discussion and comments! I was particularily thrilled that you discussed trauma as an individual response to a situation rather than a certain type of event. Glenn I would love to if I could eek out the time but at the moment it’s a toss up between that or tracking down the rollerblading LARP troup because it seems a waste to allow my cut off jean shorts and rollerblades to lay dormand whilst opportunity exists for them to flourish. Seriously though, I’m researching men’s transitions to fatherhood for my PhD, working fulltime as a clinician, have a five year old and a two year old at home and live accross the street from a ski hill so time gets eaten up quick otherwise I’d be happy to contribute anyway I could as I’m a big fan of the podcast and identify with a lot of what is discussed.Thank you both (and all others involved) for the excellent podcast!

        • Kim

          Sean, I didn’t interpret it that way at all. I really appreciated your clarification!!! And I’ll second my vote to have you come on and talk about trauma, especially from a clinical experience point of view. I totally get the little kids and phd sucking your extra time though. But when you can carve out some time that is an episode I’d love to listen to. I think trauma is something that needs to be talked about more.

    • Glenn

      Sounds like somebody needs to record a listener essay on Trauma and the Brain.

  • Joseph

    Ok, so I feel pretty lame admitting it but that “friend zone” song is awesome that Glenn spliced in.

  • Brenda

    Finally! More women on the podcast! (cant believe I’m the first one to say that. ) I really enjoyed listening and thought it was awesome/brave of Nancy to share such personal experiences.

    There is definitely not enough sex education in most mormon households. Growing up, my parents didn’t tell us a single thing about sex. I think they were too embarrassed or ashamed? I grew up feeling like my sexual side was something to be ashamed about… same thing happened to husband. We both had to work through some shit when we first got married as mormon virgins.

    • Nancy

      So happy to hear your enjoyed our discussion! BUT more importantly, you and your husband were able to work together, be open, and navigate your sexy time toward success. That is something to celebrate!

  • Craig S.

    This was a great episode. Thanks for everyone who shared. I don’t have much to say to add to it, just wanted to give my shout out to the panelists!

  • Mary

    Due to recent events, especially surrounding April Bennett, I’ve started talking openly about my experiences. I love your podcast and I SO related to the last hour of this one. Here’s my two cents if anyone’s interested in finding more support on this issue. http://mofemmom.blogspot.de/2015/01/more-on-garments.html

  • Allison

    Walgreens in any moderately sized city, or online, sells basic vibrators, if you’re not ready to venture into the sex shoppe. Target sells them too.

    They are next to the tampons, on the top shelf. Just FYI. 😉 Spread the word! Especially to 28 year old females in Utah, for a start.

    • Susan Mowers

      The internet too! AdamEve.com is one of my best friends! 😉

    • Nancy

      Amazon has quite the selection! 😉

      • Allison

        That’s where I prefer to shop. Free shipping! VERY Informative reviews!

  • Missy

    GREAT discussion! OMG — “pregnant hamster!!!!!!!!” I’m dying…. b/c YES!!! Garments are the MOST unattractive things in the world — of course women don’t think they are sexy AT ALL, EVER. Maybe that’s why my “married in the temple husband” slept with 20 other women when I was pregnant with our son b/c I looked like a pregnant hamster…. LOL. I’m dying…. If only I hadn’t worn garments… jk
    I went to BYU and I can’t TELL you how many roommates I had or friends I had who were sexually assaulted in high school by Mormon boys they grew up with. One of the reasons this happened, according to the girls, was because they were so naive. One of my friends said that in a movie theater, she had an almost identical story to the one in this podcast. She said she froze and her mind was going a million miles an hour and the whole time she kept thinking “what is he doing?? I have no idea what he was doing…and because I was so shocked I didn’t want to say anything.” She and at least 2 or 3 other girls I knew at BYU and where I grew up in another state who had no idea what boys would even try to do with them or that they could actually end up in a situation where one would try something. One of my BYU roommates actually didn’t even know how sex and procreation actually occurred until her Senior year of high school (she grew up in South Jordan). We got in a discussion with our entire apartment once and we were all laughing b/c she was saying that she thought that women got pregnant b/c the little “swimmers” would crawl across the bed to the woman!!! And this was not a backwards girl, per se. She had dated in high school and was a social girl. Honestly, I think this is incredibly dangerous. It think Mormon parents, especially in Utah, use the thought that “oh all these kids are good Mormon kids” to skirt actually having conversations (REAL conversations) with their kids about this issue. But, this ENTIRE issue is just another one that members and leaders like to pretend “aren’t an issue” b/c everyone is righteous and lives the standards so no one would ever get in a situation where a sexual assault would happen. INTERESTINGLY enough – even while I was at BYU and my bishops would give the “sex talk” or what was supposed to be — they wouldn’t even talk about the real issue. One particular Bishop and his Bishopric were literally trying to get more of us married off and the Bishop’s entire talk was him trying to get up to “make a move” on the boys! Literally – I’m not joking. He was talking about how we needed to try and hold their hands and ask them out, etc. I left there disgusted and thinking “what planet am I on??” Having a roommate who was sleeping with her 14 year older boyfriend at the time and the Bishop’s “sex talk” was how the Relief Society needed to “go after” the guys. So weird… But on another note: Out of the dozen really good Mormon kids I grew up with and graduated with at my high school – i didn’t even know at the time – but I was one of the only ones that hadn’t had sex in high school. So, yeah – NOT talking about this culturally SURE doesn’t keep Mormon kids from having sex. So… nice try 1st Presidency….Strength of Youth really worked. (not)
    In conclusion, pretending Mormon kids will never end up in dangerous situations and not properly preparing them is just setting them up – setting the girls up to be more easily sexually assaulted and setting kids up to getting pregnant. Incredibly stupid.

  • Missy

    AND… I had a BYU roomie we took to Victoria’s Secret to get our other roommate some lingerie for her honeymoon and this roommate thought it was “so silly” we were there! She went up to a teddy and started giggling uncontrollably and said to us, “Why are we even here??? This is going to look so funny over our garments… (giggle, giggle, giggle)” So, guess what??? The story on Reddit, I believe 100% b/c it was probably my BYU roommate…and she was so silly that she probably posted it herself. I don’t doubt this story for a minute.

  • Gabe

    Hi, Infants! Just wanted send out a great big fuck you very much for the blanket statements about the stake president’s kids. My world was twisted and warped thanks to Mormonism, but other than hating myself for giving in to masturbation, I lived in accordance to the values I believed in.

    • Gabe

      Woah, just re-read my post and realized it could be taken quite harshly. I might have still been a little bit allegedly high. I’ll leave it and just trust the Infants to not take profanity personally. I mean what I said, but I mean it with jovial love and respect.

      • Matt

        I picked up on that Gabe – no worries 🙂

  • One of the Other Mothers
    • Glenn

      Wow. That was hard to watch. But they sure did burn down that sex-crazed chauvinistic brutish mansplaining strawman — and hit all the right buzzwords doing it — yeah boy!