*Warning there are going to be adult words/content in this post*
About 3 weeks previous to that conversation I was sitting with a friend who had left the LDS church and we, among other things, ended up talking about sex. My friend, who was struggling with many things in the church, had "messed up" with his girlfriend and got his temple recommend taken. He talked with me about how hard he had struggled, as a guy, to not give into his sexual desires. How he tried to avoid pornography and masturbation. Sure, he struggled in those areas but he was really trying to be "a good man." He wanted to work with his Bishop and his girlfriend but he could no longer do his calling, take the sacrament, or attend the temple. He just felt like a failure and being in the church hurt more and brought on more shame than just leaving it. So he left. The conversation broke my heart.
Rewind a few years earlier to a conversation I had with some girlfriends of mine, all of whom were divorced, previously sexually active, and now struggling with their sex drive. I remember each of them, during this open conversation, remarking how relieved they were to finally be able to talk out loud about their concerns. They shared how difficult it was to be in their late 20's/early 30's, at their sexual prime, and not have anyone to really talk to concerning this topic. One of my friends mentioned that there seems to be really only two options to talk about this subject with: 1. your Bishop, if you "made a mistake" or 2. A Therapist. Either way, it was as if thinking or being concerned about your sexuality, sex drive, etc. was a problem—rather than a natural occurrence.
In all these conversations I've learned a lot about myself, my peers, how the LDS culture is viewed so differently from one person to the next. This topic has been percolating in my mind for some time but it is a sensitive topic. I have had parts of it in draft form for over a year. So here are some of my personal thoughts and I'd love to here what you think on the subject.
I made the choice to not have sex until I'm married. One thing that helps me in my situation (being a 34 y.o. virgin) is to remember that I made the choice to be as such. No one made me not have sex. the Church didn't make me choose to have self mastery. I know that if I really wanted I could most likely go out and have sex with someone somewhere. I know that sex is natural and good. I know these things and I also believe what I believe. I choose to put the responsibility and choice where it actually lies—in me.
I choose to love, listen, connect people to resources (when appropriate) instead of judge. There is too much shame, embarrassment, comparison with members of the Church about masturbation, pornography, sexual desires, etc. There is too much hyperawareness, especially in the LDS YSA/MSA scene, about lines being crossed in the law of chastity and not nearly enough focus on the power of the atonement, forgiveness, and love.
I choose positive self talk, not shaming, when I'm struggling with my own sex drive. I choose to work out, do yoga, talk with peers that are open and willing, and to be mindful and present in my life. I choose to address the issue rather than stuff it down or not acknowledge it.
I choose to acknowledge and grieve the bad days. I strive to be active in my life, maintain healthy relationships, create, express my passions, and when I have really hard days—when I get depressed or think it's not fair—I choose to grieve, cry, and let myself feel disappointed. I don't know anybody around my age who doesn't want to be in a healthy sexual relationship. I find it very healing and cathartic to acknowledge what I lack.
Sex does not solve everything. Having sex, getting married, and having children has its own set of trials, struggles, and affect on libido. I know these things will not solve anything for me. Really sitting in this reality for me, at times, is helpful. Having sex is not really what I want. Having sex in a meaningful relationship with someone I can trust, love, and be myself with—completely vulnerable, is what I want.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, in her blog post "Let's Talk About Sex" wrote:
Most of the women in my research were undermined in their relationship to their own sexuality as they had internalized a message that eroticism and desire are unfeminine and risky to their desirability—a trait essential to femininity...That is to say, women are taught that they are naturally less sexual than men—inherently lacking hedonistic desire, and even morally superior to the supposed depravity of male sexuality. While superficially approving of women’s nature, this cultural prescription leaves women little room to legitimately experience, express or integrate their own eroticism. To be feminine is to suppress or disconnect from sexual desire, or feel ashamed of its presence...In my experience, many if not most LDS women struggle pre-maritally and in marriage to integrate a sense of legitimate sexuality and desire.
On so many levels I think this is true. I have had many conversations, as a therapist & as a friend, with lots of female friends/peers/clients who literally are afraid of their sexuality, their hormones, their desires. There is some kind of internal/external/Mormon Culture voice that tells them it is bad to get aroused or to have sexual desires. This is so damaging!
I choose to love my body. I choose to accept my desires/passions. I think it is very important to be free to express myself sexually in the right times & places, and with the appropriate boundaries. I not only want to feel equally yoked in my relationships socially, spiritually, mentally, but also sexually.
So, what do you think? I would love to hear if others agree, disagree, or what other thoughts you have on the topic?