I have long wondered how many wonderful and beautiful young women there must be in the Church who are overlooked by young men because the young men are following the mainstream definition of beauty. If I have daughters, I will probably have to deal with the effects of this first-hand.
Even if young men in the Church scrupulously avoid staring at pictures of scantily-clad or suggestively-posed women, they may still be swayed by the ideology of only one possible ideal of perfection (most likely: as thin as possible, and then some) which requires countless women to torture themselves in attempts to conform.
I was seriously disturbed when I read a stammering attempt by the popular LDS author John Bytheway to answer a question of whether it was ok to make physical appearance an important factor in choosing a wife. I would like to have seen one in his position break through the assumptions behind such a question, as I assumed they must be. If it were a truly honest question of “are my tastes legitimate?” with certifiably no ties to any taste one way or the other, it would be enough to answer “sure” in an ideal situation, since with the variety of people in this world there ought to naturally be enough of a variety of tastes to find everyone an appreciative partner.
But this world is not in an ideal condition, particularly the industrialized part of it. And as things are, I suspected that behind the question lay an unspoken: “please justify me in insisting that my wife be skinny like I have been taught a woman must be to be beautiful, that she conform to the standard I have absorbed and accepted unquestioningly from the sources around me, and that she keep herself that way so that I don’t have to work on loving a woman who fails to please (or arouse) me by her appearance.” As I recall, John did at least address the second half of that question: be married long enough and you’ll eventually see your spouse looking disheveled or saggy - get over it. But the first part of the question is what I have, Alma-like, desired to shatter. Oh that I could shatter it with a voice to shake the earth.
I wish for kinder, less authoritarian understandings of beauty and sexuality, although I do have my own ideas of what is beautiful that could become potentially just as authoritarian if they had the backing that the current standard does. This is hard for me to admit, convinced as I am of the superiority of my ideas. But I wish for more gentleness towards and acknowledgment of the body, less shame and more honor, less rigor and more comfort.