Dear 100 Hour Board,
Would you say that Mormons are prudes?
-Ivan (Katie's dream)
Below, Anne does an excellent job of explaining how Mormons measure up to the definition of prudery. I think she's right on the mark. I laughed when I saw this question in the inbox, and I wanted to respond to it because once upon a time it was really hard for me to come to terms with the answer. As a freshman I took a survey of British literature, and when we hit Victorianism my professor flat-out said, "Mormons, like the Victorians, are complete prudes." What? I thought. I'm not a prude! I was sulky and a little offended for the rest of the class period.
Well, then I took a class on literary criticism in which I realized that, yes, my friends, Mormons are prudes. I don't know if it's possible for a Mormon to come out of Freud, Foucault, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Showalter and not feel at least a little prudish. Like Anne, Certainly, points out, that doesn't have to be a bad thing - most of the world certainly thinks we're unreasonably uptight about sexuality, but we try to place God's opinion above that of our fellow men. I'm going to venture an opinion, however, that Mormons can be too prudish. While we are admonished to comply with high standards of modesty, to maintain our sensibilities about sexual subjects, and to avoid arousing media, I've noticed that this often leads us to feel uncomfortable around people who don't share our standards of dress or to avoid talking openly about important subjects. In this case, prudery can be damaging. It can hurt our relationships with others or even impair their psychological development. My parents and I were both too embarrassed (i.e., too prudish) to discuss certain topics, so as a teenager I felt driven to other sources to satisfy my natural curiosity about human sexual processes. Early on, these sources sparked unhealthy attitudes about sex and introduced me to information I now wish I could forget.
In summary: be proud to be a prude, but only once you've critically evaluated your own level of prudery.
MW says: a person who is easily shocked or offended by things that do not shock or offend other people
OED says: a person (in early use esp. a woman) who has or affects an attitude of extreme propriety or modesty, esp. in sexual matters; an excessively prim person.
Do Mormons "[affect] an attitude of extreme propriety or modesty, esp. in sexual matters?" Arguably, yes. The idea of saving sex exclusively for marriage or of limiting clothing or behavior to LDS standards is arguably "extreme" compared to the attitudes of the rest of our society.
Are Mormons "excessively prim"? I think that's more of a person-by-person thing.
Are Mormons "excessively proper or modest?" Not by our own standards; we consider ourselves to be appropriately proper and modest. Many others probably consider our modesty to be excessive.
If we assume that modesty, propriety, and such are to be evaluated by comparison to the standard to which most of society comports, then yes. Mormons are prudes, and that's not a bad thing.