Mormon Discussion

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sex! And the Church

How do we, as Mormons, deal with sex and sexuality in the chuch?

I remember that my mother was always very forthcoming with sex and sexuality. She answered all my questions very honestly and always corrected any incorrect ideas I had about sex. She sat me down every year and discussed sex and babies and menstruation with me.

However, she's the exception, it seems, since so many people that I know were not taught much, if anything, about sex. What little knowledge they had came from the Church, which the major message of that is NO! unless you are married. No elaboration, just NO!

Here are some of my questions on this issue.

How do we teach kids that sexuality and having sexual feelings is normal? And ok? And that it's ok to want to have sex, even if you aren't married? And that once you are married, then it's ok to have fun with your spouse?

The main gist of the church's stance seems to be to drill it into children and teenagers (and young adults, I may add, as this is my current situation) that we are supposed to be completely asexual before marriage. We aren't supposed to masturbate. We aren't supposed to french kiss. Or make out. We aren't supposed to even THINK sexual thoughts or want to have sex, because "But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart." (3 Ne 12:28). I think that that scripture also applies to women as well. So prior to marriage, we are supposed to be completely asexual. We can't even think about sex.

However, what I fail to understand is that, when the discussion of homosexuality is brought up, members are constantly told that there is no sin in have homosexual FEELINGS, but upon acting on those homosexual feelings. So why doesn't this hold true for heterosexuals, as well? We are told that we can't masturbate because it causes us to think about sex. We can't think about sex in general, because that will make us want to have sex and then we MIGHT have sex, so therefore it's wrong wrong WRONG to think about sex!

Why is it wrong to think about sex? To acknowledge that God created us as sexual beings? If the sole purpose of sex was procreation, then why isn't it something that we do to alleviate pain, just like eating or peeing, rather than something that brings us pleasure?

If sexual thoughts lead us to sexual actions, then what about people who have sexual thoughts but who do NOT have sexual actions outside of marriage? Are sexual thoughts only bad if they lead us to have sex? Or are they bad all the time?

What about those people who are 40 and unmarried, still a virgin, who have sexual thoughts? Isn't it their right to at least have sexual thoughts, if nothing else?

And once we are married, does this mean all the sexual restrictions are off? Can I think about my husband sexually when he's not there? If he's on a business trip for three months, can I masturbate? Can I call him and tell him I'm thinking about him? Or are those things still wrong? Are they only wrong for unmarried people or for everyone?

What is so inherently bad about masturbation, outside of the sexual thoughts realm? Sex experts will often tell women who claim to be unable to orgasm that they need to masturbate to find out what makes them orgasm, so they can effectively communicate this to a partner. Why are we told to not be familiar with our own bodies? It's not sinful for me to massage my own arm or even to rub out a cramp in my leg, both of which feel really good, but it's sinful for me to touch my own genitals? I've known women who didn't even know where their own clitoris was located, let alone what its purpose was! They didn't know where their own body parts were!! I fail to see what's so bad about masturbation, outside of the "It makes you think sexual thoughts" thing, which, according to the Church's own admission, it's not the THOUGHTS OR THE FEELINGS that are sinful, but the act (at least if you are dealing with homosexual thoughts/feelings). So if the thoughts aren't bad, then what's wrong with masturbating?

The church sends out one consistent message to members and that's a view that sex is a big no-no before marriage. But, beyond that, there are so many conflicting or confusing messages.

HF made us sexual beings. He gives us sexual feelings and he gives us sexual desire. He gives us the ability to feel wonderful and to cherish the beauty of sex. So, why does the church not talk about these things, but rather, consistently reminds us how terrible it is and that we should be completely in the dark on our wedding night?

We don't necessarily need experience on the wedding night, but information might be helpful!

23 Comments:

  • Can I think about my husband sexually when he's not there? If he's on a business trip for three months, can I masturbate?

    Of course you can, you can do anything you want :-)

    It's funny that our church is so preoccupied with sex. They talk about it in nearly every meeting, and when asked about morality, people instantly break into the degradation of society due to pervasive sex. Where does that come from? I think it has much more to do with the protestant and puritan ascetics and ethics.

    There are entire religions in india that achieve divine communication through orgasm. They even have holy prostitutes to help you commune. So, the idea that sex is an abomination is really a western ideal that mormons have adopted into their theology.

    Is it right to shame and guilt people into adhering to certain views regarding sex? I'd say no, but from the looks of it, the church thinks it's quite a healthy ethic.

    Great blog!

    By Blogger Jason King, at 1:45 AM  

  • Its pretty obvious that you masturbate alot. In general, im not sure that masturbating in and of itself is all that terrible, but it does definately tend to lead the person into wanting more and more sexual contact. I think that is the reason the church doesnt agree with it. Plus, it is giving in to the natural man, and when we do that, it makes it more difficult to feel the spirit

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:45 AM  

  • Im not sure where you go to church, but I was never told not to have sexual thoughts. I was told not to dwell on them, or persue them

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:46 AM  

  • Jason--I'd agree. I think a lot of what we in the church have as views about sexuality are very much stemming from puritan and protestant ethics. I understand the need to impress upon people the importance of abstinence before marriage, but I think that we go too far when we get into this ultra-conservative view about sexual thoughts, feelings, etc.

    And thanks! I'm glad you like the blog! We like seeing you around and hearing your comments!

    Anon--Because I don't find anything inherently wrong with masturbation that somehow means I masturbate a lot? I think that's a naive (not to mention trying to be insulting) comment. And, my question is how is it giving in to the natural man if there is nothing inherently wrong with it? I was under the impression that denying the natural man meant avoiding those things which were tempting but bad, such as ACTUAL premarital sexual contact, drugs, alcohol, etc. If, by your own admission, there isn't anything inherently wrong with masturbation, then how is it giving in to the natural man.

    Anon 2--(are you the same as anon one?) I've been to several wards we moved a lot when I was a kid) and everywhere I went it was the same thing--sexual thoughts were bad and wrong and we shouldn't think them. If we did think them, we should sing a church hymn to get rid of them, since they were bad. My point is, if it's not the thoughts or the feelings that are bad, then why can't we think about them? Why must we replace them with a hymn? Why am I not allowed to imagine my relationship with my future husband, as long as I don't let it become a reality until it's the proper time?

    By Blogger mellancollyeyes, at 12:52 AM  

  • Everything I learned about sex I learned from Adrianne! Now I am a happily married sex goddess! Okay, lets start on some of these questions.

    I think the church is still trying to work out the kinks on how to talk to the youth about sex. They don't want to say that is a a wonderful sacred act because they think kids will want to do it then before marriage and they don't want to completely repel them from it because then they will have some messed up married couples, but it seems like they are going with the latter because it appears the safer route.

    The topic of masturbation. The church doesn't want you to do it because it leads to sex, not directly of course, but that is the path you are on. After marriage we don't think it is appropriate because it is like cheating on your spouse...with yourself, and that can lead to cheating on your spouse with someone else. So basically it leads to acts that you don't want to go to. And I can't imagine that Heavenly Father would want you to do that anyway. It isn't right.

    By Blogger The Bluths, at 7:09 AM  

  • Just because I dont think there is alot inherently terrible about masturbation, doesnt mean it isnt giving in to the natural man. If God says we shouldnt masturbate, then we shouldnt. It might not be wrong for everyone, some may be able to handle it (pardon the pun) but it may cause others to diverge to more serious sins.
    As long as you cant get a temple recommend if you habitually masturbate, I think Ill try to avoid it - cause God says to.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 AM  

  • TB--I'm sl glad I could help contribute to your marital bliss. ;)

    I'd agree that the church tends to go more with the scare kids into not having sex idea...but is there a more middle of the road approach? Can we teach kids to honor and respect the law of chastity while still acknowledging that sexual relations are beautiful and sacred in the proper context? Must we make kids feel shameful about having sexual feelings or desiring to have sex or can we teach them that these are natural feelings that need to be kept in check until the appropriate time?

    Ok, so, I guess I don't understand the whole cheating with yourself thing. I mean, how is it cheating? If you are doing it because for example, he's out of town and you miss him and that allows you to think about him, then how is it cheating? I still fail to see, in any aspect, how you can possibly cheat with yourself???

    And my question still remains--is it the masturbation that is the problem, or the fact that it can lead you to other things that are bad, that we as a church speak out against it? If it's the fact that it might possibly lead you to do something you shouldn't, then that would imply that the actual act itself isn't bad. Just that it can be dangerous for some people because they may end up in places they shouldn't. A different example would be going out to a bar with friends--technically there is nothing inherently wrong with being in a bar, but it MIGHT lead you to drink. If you are sitting in the bar, with say...oh...a cherry sprite, for example...and just chatting with old friends, are you sinning? If you don't break your covenants, then is it a sin? Or is it that it should be avoided because it MIGHT cause you to sin? If that is the case, then would self-discretion be ok? If you were the type of person who wasn't tempted by alcohol at all, but rather wanted to catch up with an old friend who you haven't seen in awhile, then would you be sinning if you went to the bar? Or is acceptable to identify your strengths and weaknesses and make judgment calls about where you are tempted and where you aren't and what you can safely do and what you can't? Same for masturbation--if you are only engaging in that(and presuming that we've established that masturbation isn't inherently wrong or sinful, but rather something that may potentially lead to sin), and not breaking your covenant to the law of chastity, then are you able to make a discretionary decision on that?

    Anon--I'm still confused...please correct me if I'm not right here, but as I've stated, I thought that giving in to the natural man meant giving in to sin. If masturabtion isn't a sin, but rahter something that may potentially lead some people to sin, then how is that giving in to the natural man? I'm still confused on that point. If we are to avoid everything that may potentially lead to sin, then we must avoid pretty much everything in the world. I go into Starbucks because I LOVE that chcoloate chip ice cream thing they have. It's about the only thing on the menu without coffee. So, should I avoid this then? Because it may potentially be tempting to some people to drink coffee? Or renting movies--should I avoid the video store because it may potentially cause some people to rent rated-r movie? There are many, many things which may potentially lead some people to sin. Of course, some are MORE likely to lead to sin than others, but should they all be avoided? Or, as I mentioned in the previous comment, are we allowed to make discretionary calls on what our temptations are and aren't?

    And granted, it's been awhile since I have gone through a temple recommend interview, but I don't recall ever once being asked about masturbation. Unless it fell under the law of chastity and I just had no idea...but I was never once specifically asked if I masturbated or ever told that it would prevent me from getting into the temple. Is that a specific question, or did I just miss it being lumped in to chastity as a youth?

    By Blogger mellancollyeyes, at 3:55 PM  

  • I personally think it is a sin, but maybe you should ask your bishop. I think it is completely different than sitting in a bar, but not drinking. Oh I don't know.

    By Blogger The Bluths, at 6:55 PM  

  • TB--Yeah, i'll blurt that one out at the next F&T meeting and see what the congregation thinks...I'll take a poll. :)

    See that's my main question...IS it a sin in and of itself? Or does the church say it's bad because it can LEAD to sin? I don't know either...

    By Blogger mellancollyeyes, at 9:51 PM  

  • I actually had a post about this a while ago here. I think it's a classic case of the church being caught fifty years behind the times.

    I have a hard time considering things that don't hurt other people as sins.

    By Blogger NFlanders, at 1:00 AM  

  • Its not just going to Starbucks and getting Ice cream. Its going to Starbucks and getting coffee ice cream. It is definately a sin. Why, because God says it is. I dont think drinking a tiny bit of coffee is all that bad for me, but it is still a sin.

    It is also against the law of chastity. Masturbation isnt asked about directly in a temple recommend interview, but the law of chastity is. Anyone that says it isnt wasnt listening in YM/YW, or had gutless leaders that didnt teach it properly.

    If you want, ask your Bishop a direct question - the answer you will get - if you masturbate habitually, you are not worthy to attend the temple.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:41 AM  

  • Anon - as mellancolly's best friend and one who frequents starbucks, there are things that don't have coffee in them there and that's what she drinks. so the question still stands, is it a sin to go to starbucks and to order the chocolate thingy because going there might cause you to sin. i agree with MCE when asking all of these questions because, unlike TB pointed out, avoiding masterbation because you might sin is the same as avoiding a bar.

    why would Heavenly Father create such beautiful bodies for us and then say, no - you may not derive pleasure from them. you may say, well that's not how it is RV. when you are with your spouse, you can do whatever you please. but my question is how is one supposed to help someone else pleasure them when they don't know how to pleasure themselves?

    if a girl, such as myself, had never had friends like MCE, she wouldn't really even know how her body worked. like TB, i'm giving props to the girl who's mom wasn't afraid to talk about sex.

    By Anonymous RV, at 11:14 AM  

  • The original question wasnt "is going into starbucks a sin?" the original question was "is masturbation a sin?" and the answer is "yes".
    Whether or not masturbating will lead you to other sexual sins is an individual thing. Regardless of that, it is a sin in and of itself. Why is it a sin? Because God said it was.
    I am in no way saying that sexual pleasure is bad, on the contrary, it is great. On of the greatest joys in my life is watching my wife as she climaxes with me. All I am saying is - regardless if it is detrimental to you or not, masturbating is a sin.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:53 AM  

  • Ned-your post was really interesting! thanks for linking it.

    Anon--Ok to clarify this, since you aren't a girl, the topic of masturbation was NEVER discussed in YWs. Why? Because on the few occassions it WAS mentioned, it was to tell us girls that it was a "boy problem" and we, of course, wouldn't ever deal with sexual urges or masturbation, since we were girls. And when the bishop of our ward gave the YM a sexual purity talk, their talk included masturbation. The girls' talk didn't. This same pattern was repeated about 3 months ago in my Young Single Adult ward--guys get talked to about masturbation, girls don't. And, I have yet to find a girl who went to church in the YW program where masturbation was discussed as anything other than a boy problem.

    I'd like to know where God says its a sin. I don't remember any scriptural reference. And sometimes, especially with sexual things which are often kept secret in church, the advice one bishop gives is different than the advice another gives. For example, in the talk about sex in my current ward, the current bishop told us all that oral sex was a "perversion" and that if we females gave it to our future husbands, he would no longer be able to have an orgasm through normal sexual intercourse. However, a friend of mine was told by her bishop that as long as both partners in the marriage we okay with it, it was fine. Another woman I know in church told me that HER bishop 20-odd years ago told her that it was ok, as well. So, who's right? My bishop or the other? I've heard of people being told by bishops that masturbation isn't an incredibly serious sin and others who are told it is. So, I'm kind of wondering where we draw information from on this topic as to is it a sin and if so, where is the reference for that? and if it is a sin, how serious is it? clearly, when it comes to sexual items, bishops vary greatly, which makes me wonder exactly what is the hard and firm facts on this.

    And for the record, the drink I get from Starbucks is one of three that doesn't contain coffee. It's only ice cream, milk, and chocolate. Before people start thinking I'm a coffee-addicted freak or something!

    By Blogger mellancollyeyes, at 5:55 PM  

  • The biblical reference to masturbation is abou Onan - Old Testament - kind of brutal punishment, you will have to look it up.

    As to not being taught about masturbation in YW or in your ward now, that is an unfortunate by-product of gutless leaders.

    With respect to how serious it is, it is true that some bishops feel differently. The only fact I know is: If you mastubate habitually, you are not worthy to receive a temple recommend.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:15 AM  

  • Regardless of that, it is a sin in and of itself. Why is it a sin? Because God said it was.

    Anyon, do you realize the implications of your argument? Your ethic is called the Divine Command Theory, and essentially, it boils down to the law of the jungle: might makes right. Since God is the most powerful, he makes the law, and whatever he says is 'right'.

    If it is the case the morality simply consists of doing what God says, than what is the point of morality at all? Why do we even obey God?

    The trouble is the logical extension of your ornamental law of the jungle: we will be dependent children forever. We will always have to look back at our 'father' to understand the moral implications of each and every dilemma we face, because our construct of morality is not based on principles but power.

    By Blogger Jason King, at 2:05 AM  

  • I thought I might throw something out about this topic. If masturbation in itself is a sin, then what about those faced with infirtilty problems.
    The men have to be tested and yes your wife can be present. In our case we are doing the procedure of invetro and my wife will not be able to be around she will be in the surgery room and I have to donate a fresh sample without her.
    Is that a sin? Cause it sounds like it is when you say "in itself".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:11 AM  

  • Anon-That's a really interesting question. I've wondered that, myself. In cases such as that, is it a sin? Or does the sin depend on the circumstances? Masturbation for pleasure vs for procreation? But then isn't that a slippery slope into the question of sex-for-procretion-purposes?

    By Blogger mellancollyeyes, at 7:35 PM  

  • As a single male, I've been asked MANY times if I masturbate during temple recommend interviews. Growing up, masturbation was brought up in YM meetings often. We were always taught that it is just as bad as having premarital sex. Also I think that masturbation helps prevent, rather than encourage, sexual contact with others before marriage. If I didn't masturbate, I think I'd be much more likely to look to other people for my sexual needs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:20 PM  

  • As a single male, I've been asked MANY times if I masturbate during temple recommend interviews. Growing up, masturbation was brought up in YM meetings often. We were always taught that it is just as bad as having premarital sex. Also I think that masturbation helps prevent, rather than encourage, sexual contact with others before marriage. If I didn't masturbate, I think I'd be much more likely to look to other people for my sexual needs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:21 PM  

  • For example, in the talk about sex in my current ward, the current bishop told us all that oral sex was a "perversion" and that if we females gave it to our future husbands, he would no longer be able to have an orgasm through normal sexual intercourse. However, a friend of mine was told by her bishop that as long as both partners in the marriage we okay with it, it was fine. Another woman I know in church told me that HER bishop 20-odd years ago told her that it was ok, as well. So, who's right? My bishop or the other?
    The other bishop. Your bishop is grossly misinformed and you should not be afraid to tell him so.

    By Anonymous Jeremy Jensen, at 11:25 PM  

  • We were always taught that it is just as bad as having premarital sex.What did they say, exactly? I really, really doubt that you were actually taught this exact idea. In any case, it's not doctrinal at all.

    By Anonymous Jeremy Jensen, at 11:26 PM  

  • "I've been asked MANY times if I masturbate during temple recommend interviews."

    Whether or not masturbation is inherently sinful, I would NEVER do it during temple recommend interviews!

    By Anonymous Asael, at 1:22 PM  

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