What Will I Tell My Kids About Sex?

WARNING: This post contains a frank discussion of human sexuality.  If that makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you skip it.

At the risk of getting personal, sex and shame have gone hand-in-hand my entire life.

This might come as a surprise for some who know me in real life, where I have a tendency to make off-color jokes and casual comments about sex often, but the truth is that my external lightheartedness has always masked an inner discomfort that goes very deep.  I’m not speaking of a discomfort with the “mechanics” of sex itself, but with allowing myself to fully embrace that unspeakable hybrid of humanity and divinity that is my sexuality.

My particular circumstance is a unique mix of family dynamics, cultural influence, personality, chemistry, and, yes, Mormon practice and teaching.  In fairness, family probably had more to do with it than anything.  But lately I’ve been wondering: what if the messages I’d heard about sex at church and at home had been more positive and less shame-based? And now that I have a daughter, I keep asking myself: what will I tell her about sex?

What follows is a first stab at what I hope to teach her.

1. Sex is NOT about orgasms. First, we have to change the paradigm from which we operate.  The world tells us that physical release is the goal of sexual activity — and I believe that as a people, we have unconsciously bought this hook, line, and sinker.  As a result, 99% of our discourse on sex is about who gets to have orgasms when, and how to protect yourself from “unauthorized” orgasms — whether it’s keeping your thoughts clean, your feet on the floor, or your neckline high.   Unfortunately, as long as we allow the world to set our agenda about what sex is really about, we’re screwed (pun totally intended; see here for a more thorough treatment of this concept).

But what if sex ISN’T about orgasm? What if sex is about love and loyalty and creation and companionship — and the pleasure is beside the point, as opposed to the point itself?

It might seem like a subtle shift, but the implications are staggering. When chastity is no longer about how orgasms are or are not attained, but is instead about honoring God by expressing deep, genuine love for a person to whom you have committed your life (and with whom you are open to creating new life), everything changes.  Suddenly we can have conversations about sex that are not based in shame (“that good feeling is a terrible, bad SIN!”), but based in love (“fornication is unloving because it is an expression of mature emotion without a lifetime commitment — and places you at risk for creating new life without a secure place to nurture it”).  And that is a HUGE difference.

2. Sexual sin is no “better” or “worse” than other sins. A study of the scriptures, particularly the New Testament, makes it clear that Jesus was far less concerned with sexual sin than He was with hypocrisy, hatred, and pride.  In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said it well:

The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins.  All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: … the pleasures of power, and hatred.  For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become.  They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self.  The Diabolical self is the worse of the two.  That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.  But, of course, it is better to be neither.

The idea that sexual sin is a special brand of sin that is “worse” than other sins is perhaps the most damaging message we send about sexuality.  I understand that on a practical level, sexual indiscretions can carry more serious consequences than others — and so we deserve to address the potential consequences frankly and openly — but stacking on reams of shame in addition to the natural consequences is just cruel.  It’s time to eliminate rhetoric that makes normal human experience something to fear.  This does NOT mean condoning irresponsible and unloving sexual behavior, but by dropping the hysteria, we might actually begin to help people choose chastity because they love God, not because they fear His wrath.

3. Masturbation is a personal issue (pun totally NOT intended). Going on 100% of people, male and female, masturbate.  This is as true for Mormons as anyone else.  Therefore, as parents, I think it’s critical that we have a strategy for addressing this issue.

In my opinion, masturbation should not be anywhere near the same discussion as fornication and adultery — they are completely separate categories.  That’s because, unlike fornication and adultery, masturbation neither breaks sacred trust (necessarily), expresses love cavalierly, nor risks creating life where there can be no security for a child.

Now don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean that masturbation can’t be damaging.  But I have witnessed the kind of agony and self-loathing that can develop in people’s lives when inappropriate focus is placed on it, and in my estimation, the shame is far more damaging than the act itself could ever be.

So what will I tell my daughter (and potential future sons) about masturbation?  Until they’re adolescent, nothing. Sexual exploration is completely normal in children, and I will not even mention it until they are old enough to understand what’s happening.  At that point, our conversations will revolve around resisting the temptation to objectify or control others sexually; avoiding pornography, which is problematic for more reasons than just masturbation; and then, I’ll tell them not to worry too much about it, because it’s a personal issue, and nobody’s business but theirs.

What about you?  What do you teach your children about sex?  And what other changes do you think could be made to the way our culture approaches the topic in order to reduce sex-related shame, fear, and anxiety, and help people develop more positive relationships with their sexuality?

This post is one in a series.  Get the rest of the series here.

About Katie L

A doubter by nature, a believer by grace.

Posted on August 16, 2010, in Advice, Confessions of a Licked Cupcake, Mental Health, Mormonism, Personal and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Because I do not have any children, I have not never really reflected on your main topic. Two remarks, however:

    o That the face someone present outwards is the opposite of what lies inside (as with you and attitude to sex) is quite common. Areas where some amount of shame or perception of weakness is involved are particularly prone to be involved, e.g. in that a many alcoholics manage to hold up an appearance of not drinking at all (only doing so at parties, or similar) or in that many bullies are very insecure.

    o Your 1. is a bit surprising to me (possibly due to a different background): I would on the contrary say that sex has for several decades suffered from too strong associations with the more female attitude that it is a matter of love, bonding, or similar; while the equally legitimate male attitude that sex is about having fun is considered shallow, archaic, or similar.

  2. Katie,
    Many excellent points! I think our children should not be taught to feel shame about their bodies, their natural desires to explore, and to discover their own sexuality when the time is right. In working with children I can say that I have observed the impact of culture, family guidance or lack of, and the learning about sexuality from peers or strangers in awkward and inappropriate ways. Children should not be shamed but talked to about what they feel, experience, or any thoughts they may be having that involves’ sex’ on any level-my catch is that we explain it to some degree before adolescence. When my child asks I explain it in general terms, as much as he can handle per his age and cognition. As he grows I will continue to answer his inquires and teach him to love his body, respect others and privacy in terms of ‘seeing others parts’, how to keep safe, and how to be chaste or choose the best for him when he reaches that point of ‘sexuality’ and the next step to exploring a whole new self on a much deeper level. I believe that sexuality ties in with spirituality and would agree that the judgment we render later is based on our actions towards others and ourselves (only in the context of self-harm) . Many thoughts come to mind about modern perspectives, how we teach or fail to teach our children based on many reasons, and the entire issue surrounding a person being comfortable with their own idea of sexuality and whatever that entails. I say one last thing: in loving ourselves, we must learn to be comfortable with ourselves on every level including spiritually and with sexuality. With culture, tradition, and misconception a journey awaits for many…

  3. Michael, thanks for stopping by! I guess I would say that while I am not ANTI-orgasm by any stretch of the imagination (because that would be a shame if ever there was one!), you’re right: I don’t believe that what you call the “male” perspective, or just having fun, is a satisfactory end game for sex. While fun is a terrific benefit, it is NOT the point in and of itself, and I reject the idea that purely recreational sex outside a committed relationship is “equally legitimate” to sexual expression between loving life partners.

    Maria, I agree wholeheartedly. I should clarify that I’m not saying I won’t talk to my kids about sex in general before adolescence — A is only three, and we already use words like penis and vagina, and have had age-appropriate conversations with her regarding concepts of privacy and so on — merely that I won’t be putting any focus on masturbation specifically until she reaches adolescence. Does that make sense?

    I also could not agree with you more that in loving ourselves, we must learn to be comfortable with ourselves on every level including (perhaps especially) sexually.

  4. Katie, I would ask you to stop and think for a moment: How can your opinion on this reasonably be extended to others? (In particular, to men, who are wired differently.) By the same kind of reasoning, I could “reject” the legitimacy of somone’s going to a party instead of reading, listening to “bubble-gum pop” instead of classical music, or playing soccer instead of solving puzzles.

    In addition, if we were to speak of a purpose behind sex, then it all boils down to reproduction: The purpose is to generate off-spring—the rest is gravy.

  5. Katie, I love this post. 🙂

    So do you think that the LDS Church shouldn’t be teaching that masturbation is wrong?

    We talk with our son about masturbation, because, like all kids, he has found the parts of his body that feel nice when he touches them. And, as a matter of being a part of society, we gently tell him that we realize that what he’s doing feels nice, but it’s something that he should do in private. (I also have to remind him that even if he is wearing all blue, he doesn’t need to show people his underwear to prove it.)

    Michael, do you really think that most men don’t think that sex is better when it’s in a committed relationship, where it is an expression of love and trust and vulnerability with the person who loves you? Sure, other kinds of sex can be fun, but not nearly as intense or spiritual or whatever.

    Katie, thanks for reminding me that I want to talk to Kullervo about this. 🙂

  6. Michael, there are two answers to your question. First is that my opinion on this *can’t* reasonably be extended to others unless they buy into it themselves. I certainly can’t control what others think / do / believe about sex — nor would I want to!

    I think what you’re really asking, though, is why I believe my perspective is superior. This answer will probably be unsatisfying to you, but the bottom line is simply that I believe God has said so. I believe that human sexuality carries a profound spiritual dimension that can only be fully expressed when exercised between loving, committed life partners. Sex is something I think God cares about, while music or social activity preference isn’t.

    This doesn’t mean I believe that sex always has to be this magical, mystical, “profound” experience — sometimes it can be wild, fun, exciting, lighthearted, whatever — but the context in which one engages in sex matters, I think, and I genuinely believe that are better ways to do it than others.

  7. So do you think that the LDS Church shouldn’t be teaching that masturbation is wrong?

    Katy, great question. I don’t believe that masturbation in and of itself is necessarily wrong, because, as I’ve mentioned, I’m of the opinion that all this focus on who orgasms and how is missing the mark.

    What I do believe is that masturbation can be (and let’s face it, usually is) practiced in ways that are unloving — and being unloving is wrong. So if you’re objectifying others, that’s wrong. If you’re using masturbation to escape true intimacy with a spouse, that’s wrong. If masturbation has become a compulsion that controls you, we’ve got a problem.

    Still, it should be nowhere near the same conversation as fornication and adultery, for reasons I’ve outlined; nor should it be a source of shame or a “confession-worthy” indiscretion. I actually think that the church is moving in this direction; you almost NEVER hear about masturbation any more — all the focus is on pornography. I don’t know that the shame-based approach we’ve adopted to combat pornography is particularly effective, but I’m fairly anti-pornography, due to its addictive qualities, aggressive pervasiveness, and the way it objectifies people, women in particular.

    Finally, regarding mentioning it to Oliver, I’m pretty sensitive about whether or not it’s a good idea to bring it up to children at all for some personal reasons, but it sounds as though your approach is completely reasonable and not at all shame-based, so I support you in it. 🙂

  8. I find myself assuming that Michael and I must live in two entirely different worlds. While the topic of sexuality rarely comes up when I am with my male friends (of all different religions. philosophies, and walks of life), the few times it has come up, we tend to be in agreement that sexuality, in the extremely wise words of Homer Simpson, can’t be just about sex. Sexuality is about relationships. if it is just about “having fun”, then it is no better or worse than any other recreation. The only guys I know who have the sex-as-recreation viewpoint are those who have no desire whatsoever to enter into relationships, but I find that they are the minority, not the majority.

    I reject outright the notions that sexuality should be acceptably purely recreational or procreational. It includes both but it also goes far beyond. I think Katie has hit the nail right on the head. While my wife and I aren’t particularly close to having any children yet (meaning it will be probably close to a year and a a half at the earliest), we have discussed sexuality and we have discussed healthy and unhealthy approaches to teaching and discussing it, and I would say we are fairly close to Katie’s thoughts..

  9. I like the comments above & would agree particularly with Alex’s description of sexuality being a cohesive subject. It goes far beyond the ‘fun’ and ‘metaphorical’ to help shape how we are as a people and yes I mean that inclusively. While some may embrace the idea of relationships and healthy interactions as a component of growth in terms of a sexual self, others do not and as such the perspective can be skewed to endorse the idea of ‘procreation only’. I look at the big guy upstairs and think of what would matter most to him. I am not him of course so I cannot speak matter-of-factly but I can guesstimate that our interactions with others are very important. If we have experienced any shame-based learning whether it be about sexuality or other there exists a potential for a loss of ourselves to share with others in every context. I agree with Katie that there are major and minor issues in life, with sexuality and spirituality. One of the biggest points of this discussion is that we can be sexually healthy with our partner, enjoy sex and love while considering the miracle of procreation, all while remaining in our Savior’s good graces. There is always going to be a mix of perspectives on whether or sex. masturbation, or procreation are necessity or desire issues in life. Whatever your stance is, we are open to it and as such we must each in turn be respectful of each others views. I look forward to more views on this matter, it has always been a controversial and fascinating multi-faceted topic.

  10. Hello! Hope you don’t mind me posting, but this was really interesting and something Darreck and I have discussed at length. I think it’s sad that you feel that what you were taught when you were younger linked shame with sex. I’ve known lots of people (especially LDS women) who have this problem, and I attribute my positive associations with my parent’s teachings on sex. Their key points were similar to what you said, especially about the goal being a loving, fulfilling relationship with a spouse. I was always taught that sex is wonderful, enjoyable, and necessary within a good marriage and an integral part of the plan, regardless of intent to procreate. I think the problem with mastrubation is that it is often linked to the other sins you mention- especially pride and hypocrisy. While having a healthy self image and understanding of one’s own body is imperative, giving in to selfish impulses will not lead us closer to Christ. That being said, I also don’t think it is the end all of sins and needs to be taken incredibly seriously. The only point I disagree on is that sexual sin is not more serious than other sins. Murder and sexual sin are similar in that they bring life into the world or take life out of the world through the misuse of agency, effectively subverting the plan for one or more individual. While it can be overcome, watering down the serious nature of sexual sin gives the impression that creating life isn’t that important to our Heavenly Father, and that idea is tragic. Excellent post and thanks for your thoughts.

  11. With the several comments replying to me, I can probably not give a complete answer. However, to try to cover the main points:

    1. The main issue here is not what is (in some sense) better, more natural, whatnot—but that it simply is not acceptable for one person to dictate what others should like or not like to what degree, enjoy or not enjoy, and so on.

    We may set laws to stop behaviours; we may argue that X is superior to Y ; and we may even reject Y with regard to ourselves.

    We must not, however, reject others subjective preferences as illegitimate.

    (For the purposes of my comment, why someone would prefer this-or-that is beside the point—as long as they do not try to impose that opinion onto others.)

    2. It would be wrong to say that men only see sex as “fun and games”—and it would be equally wrong to say that women only see sex as bonding mechanism (or similar, I have trouble finding a brief expression that hits the right meaning).

    However, men and women do, on average, have a difference in preference, where women tend relatively more towards bonding and men relatively more towards fun.

    (Also note that there are several variations of this, e.g. that women tend to want a post-act snuggle, while men tend to doze off.)

  12. Heather, thanks for stopping by! It’s a joy to have you part of the discussion! 🙂

    I know that my position on sexual sin not being worse than any other kind of sin is uncommon, but I believe it is more scriptural. There is one small verse in Alma that is the basis for literally 100% of the “sin next to murder” rhetoric we hear — but I believe that a close reading of the text reveals something else. While sexual misconduct was a very troubling aspect of Corianton’s sin, it was his sexual sin in combination with his foresaking the ministry and causing others to stumble (in essence being a hypocrite) that caused Alma to lament, “Know ye not that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord…for when they saw your conduct, they would not believe in my words (emphasis mine).”

    On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence in the New Testament that the sin that Jesus hated most was hypocrisy — specifically religious hypocrisy — and that He frequently ministered to and quickly forgave whores, fornicators, adulterers, and the like.

    I DO agree that sexual sin is playing with life, and for that reason its consequences can be far more serious than most, but I don’t know if I buy into the idea that it’s inherently more wicked to be carried away with one’s physical passions than to, say, hate your neighbor.


    1. The main issue here is not what is (in some sense) better, more natural, whatnot—but that it simply is not acceptable for one person to dictate what others should like or not like to what degree, enjoy or not enjoy, and so on.

    Nope, that’s absolutely not the issue here and never has been. I have zero interest in dictating to others anything about sex. This is an exploration of what kind of paradigm we can construct within a Mormon context to help people adopt both a healthy attitude about sex AND choose chastity (which is a high value within our faith community) from a positive place, as opposed to one driven by shame.

    Although, for the record, it’s ludicrous to argue that we cannot reject others’ subjective preferences as less legitimate than ours. Of course we can.

    What we can’t (or shouldn’t) do, anyway, is take away others’ rights to subjectively prefer whatever they want. But to say that we can’t prefer our own preferences, even to the point where we believe everyone else should adopt them (although we would never REQUIRE them to), is silly. After all, every time we express an opinion that is at odds with another opinion, we are, in essence, saying that our approach or preference is more legitimate than the other.

    In fact, you just did it when you said that it’s not legitimate for me to say that committal sex is more legitimate than non-committal sex. 😉

  13. To clarify: The main issue in my previous comment […] —not the main issue in your post […]

    “In fact, you just did it when you said that it’s not legitimate for me to say that committal sex is more legitimate than non-committal sex.”

    Interesting point. The problem is that there is always the odd special case when we deal with statements that deal with statements or that are potentially self-referential. (This topic is far too large for a single comment, but if you have the spare time, you may want to pick up a copy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gödel,_Escher,_Bach For a trivial example, consider “This sentence is a lie.”.)

  14. Michael, thanks for the clarification; got it.

    And thanks for the link. I was being purposely cheeky in my response to you, but I will certainly enjoy reading more about statements dealing with statements. 🙂 Have a great one.

  15. Katie,

    I enjoyed this post! I flatter myself in thinking that I, in some small way, got you thinking about this with our very brief discussion about my church chastity talk. However, your thoughts are so much more specific and well thought out than mine were and, of course, much more blunt than one can be over the pulpit. 🙂 Imagine if I had said “orgasm” and “masturbation.” That makes me chuckle.

    Chiming in with my thoughts and responses, I feel that your main sentiment about masturbation is that, although over-active masturbation can be a manifestation of other sins or problems, children should not feel fear, guilt, or shame about their inherit sexuality or curiosity about their bodies. I agree whole heartedly. And, as you say, pretty much everyone does it at one point or another. In fact, sometimes I’m actually concerned for 30 or 40-something single Mormon men and/or women who are really strict or “stalwart.” I often think, “Gosh, I hope you masturbate once in a while.” Come on…

    On your point of the severity of sexual sin, I am of the thought that it is a “special” (for lack of a better word) sin because, as Heather mentioned, it plays with procreation and bringing children into the world. However, I agree with the sentiment that God hates it just as much when I gossip, which you know I can tend to do, as when someone commits sexual sin.

    So, in thinking about what to teach MY future children about sex will hope to have them understand WHY their sexual purity is so important to God, rather than telling them that having sex before marriage is “bad” and sinful. To construct in them respect for their bodies and confidence in their ability to love and feel passion, yet have control their physical appetites. It’s so much easier for kids to understand what they SHOULD do, rather that constantly dwell on what they SHOULDN’T do. Really, when put in context of all sins shouldn’t we have a list of “Thou Shalt’s” instead of a list of “Thou Shalt Not’s…?” The two most important commandments, loving God and our neighbors, are DO’s, not DON’Ts. And if we actually DO those two things, the DON’Ts are taken care of.

  16. Mindy, it was TOTALLY your influence. 😉 And for the record, I would have paid you $942 to say “masturbation” and “orgasm” over the pulpit. $942!!!

    In fact, sometimes I’m actually concerned for 30 or 40-something single Mormon men and/or women who are really strict or “stalwart.” I often think, “Gosh, I hope you masturbate once in a while.” Come on…

    I always think this.

    Finally, I love your point about how the two most important commandments take care of all the “DON’Ts.” That is basically the bottom line of my whole post, summarized very nicely. Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to chime in with anything else that occurs to you. 🙂

  17. So, for everyone who thinks that sexual sin is worse than other sins because it can bring life into the world… would you say that for someone who had had a hysterectomy, or someone who knew that they could not conceive it wasn’t as sinful? Does practicing safe sex make it 99.3% less sinful?

    Kullervo and I were just talking about this, and I think that something that I want to teach our kids is that having sex with someone is sharing something personal and vulnerable with someone else. And just like if you told some stranger your deepest, darkest secrets without thinking that you would see them again or that they would hold them close and secret or whatever would make you feel a bit dirty (for lack of a better word), or like you had betrayed your own trust, so it is also with your sexuality. It’s not because sexuality is bad (or hopefully your deepest darkest secret), it boils down to relationships, and your relationship with yourself is important.

  18. Katy, well said. I think that’s a great point to share with your children.

  19. My biggest problem with the claim that sexual sin is next to murder is that it groups ALL sexual sin together. So when a young teenage boy gets a glance of a naked body in a movie and his mind immediately goes down that road, that thought (which is supposedly a sin) is as bad as if he went out and knifed a homeless guy and stole his blanket. I just don’t buy it.

    Now, obviously, there is something drastically wrong about ditching a mission to sex it up with a prostitute. And I think there are serious problems with having a child out of wedlock but even that is swiftly remedied. Heck, I know a lot of awesome parents whose children were born before they were married, or they were born a few months after the wedding.

    As an aside, I had a high school English teacher who once commented that there were far more premature babies reported in the 18th century because the Puritans had a habit of claiming that the healthy 7 lb 10 oz baby born six months after the wedding was a preemie.

    Now, sowing your seed all over the land a la the dude on top of the Lincoln, Nebraska, capitol building is another issue altogether. This becomes a matter of selfishness, disregarding for responsibility, abandonment, mocking the powers of procreation, etc. I can see how the Lord would be pretty upset with that guy.

  20. Katie, thanks so much for your thoughts and comments. I have actually changed my mind a little on what I said (thanks to you!) and agree that sexual sin is obviously not doctrinely worse than any other sin. I think I attribute the “worse” label to it because I have seen the far-reaching effects of sexual sin over generations. That is why I do agree that it could be labeled as “special” and needs extra consideration, especially with teens and young adults. Yes, I do believe that sex with protection is still completely wrong because no protection is 100 percent effective. 99% still means that one in every hundred will get pregnant- that’s huge! Also, I have seen more than a few friends who started with mastrubation and then continued to rationalize other more serious sexual sins later. It can be a dangerous path, but scarring children is not the answer. Purity needs to be taught with a firm but loving, understanding, and caring hand.

  21. Heather, wow! That’s the first time I think anyone has ever changed their mind based on something I’ve said. I’m glad I gave you some food for thought. 🙂

    Also, I have seen more than a few friends who started with mastrubation and then continued to rationalize other more serious sexual sins later.

    I actually think this is one of the strongest arguments for moving masturbation far away from conversations about fornication and adultery. When masturbation is in the same category, people feel hopeless or like they’ve already committed “the sin next to murder,” so why not take it further? When masturbation is treated as a fundamentally different issue from fornication and adultery, and I believe it is, then there is no slippery slope between them. Since close to 100% of people masturbate, it seems to me that this is a slope we would be very interested in seeing dismantled.

    What do you think?

  22. “99% still means that one in every hundred will get pregnant- that’s huge!”

    Actually, that’s not true.

    One out of every hundred times that a person would have gotten pregnant had they not been using protection, they could. If you consider that there are only 2-5 days every menstrual cycle that a woman is fertile, that limits it significantly.

    There are also people who have a 100% chance of not getting pregnant–do to menopause, hysterectomy, or just plain barrenness.

  23. Okay, two more things- wow, I got WAY more involved in this than I meant to 😉

    Katyjane- you are right, but it’s just semantics and neglects the real issue. ANY unwanted pregnancy that is followed through results in an unwanted child. That is the absolute saddest condition of the human condition. Every child deserves to be loved and wanted, and careless sex does not result in that outcome. I simply cannot, out of my love for chidren, except adults carelessly bringing children into the world. Sex results in children sometimes, even with contraception. Period.

    To Katie, I think that mastrubation is an inevitable, and that kids should not feel shame (or even need to run to the bishop or their parents) over an isolated event. However, more than just isolated events usually signals one of two things. 1. A general lack of respect for sexuality. This does lead to greater sexual transgression. 2. A lack of impulse control that would also leave the individual more susceptible to temptation. The world teaches that we should not deny our sexual urges, but studies by psychologists (non-denominations studies, by the way) show that high school students who practice abstinence of all sexual acts (including self pleasuring) report better impulse control in other areas of their life, better long-term goal attainment, and higher general self-esteem. In fact, most of the research on teens and sexuality is counterintuitive to what the world teaches. (Sorry, enough psych talk!). Here’s what we want to teach Max:

    Heavenly Father has created your desires, and they are a healthy and wonderful part of mortality. Sometimes we misuse this power before we’ve found our eternal companion, and this is something Heavenly Father sent us here to learn to control. If/when it happens, you don’t have to run to us, unless you’d like to talk about it, but spend some time in prayer asking Heavenly Father to help you control yourself better next time. As you get better at controlling those urges, you’ll feel better about yourself and have better control over all of your choices. You’ll have most of your life and all eternity to be with your eternal companion intimately. If you can control yourself for just these few years, you will be blessed for it forever.

  24. Okay, so this is a tiny bit inappropriate, but still funny. I wasn’t sure where else to share it.

    In this month’s Ensign, there was an article on dating and virtue. And then there was this quote:

    We need to encourage youth to do hard things and sometimes to take the path that stretches them.

    The choice of language there made me giggle like a 14-year-old. That is all.

  25. This post is old, I know but I just came across it and thought it is great. I’m happy to see other mormons having good healthy attitudes toward human sexuality. I think past generations have been neurotic about it. The church has in the past taught unhealthy attitudes about sex. Thank goodness that’s all in the past but I’ve recently felt some bitterness toward the church because of it. I’m trying to chalk it up as the “mistakes of men”.

    I agree, sex is not about physical acts or orgasms as you put it, it’s about relationships and love and family and children.

    I recently just came to the realization that there is not a single scripture on masturbation. I think the history of mormon masturbation attitudes is interesting.

    Click to access mormon_masturbation.pdf

    I have felt anger that I was so neurotic about it as a teenager but I thank God I’ve been blessed with a happy marriage and that is all in the past.

    What will I teach my children about masturbation? That’s it’s totally normal, everybody does it, just make sure you do it alone and to look forward to having a happy sexual relationship in marriage. I will let them know that they most definatly do not need to confess it to bishops. Heaping shame on people for masturbation is abusive.

  26. I agree with much of what you say here. In regards to this “What if sex is about love and loyalty and creation and companionship — and the pleasure is beside the point, as opposed to the point itself?” I once had a conversation with my therapist where while working through issues with masturbation and sexuality he had me create a list of reasons for sex. I listed procreation, closeness, something else I can’t remember, and stress relief. He then said “one of these things is not like the other” and we talked about how stress relief isn’t a reason for/point of sex, it’s a nice side effect (this is some serious paraphrasing here). We also had some frank discussions about how to determine what truly constitutes making love (this was an LDS therapist who I found through LDS social services, a really great one). I really gained some perspective on how to have an even more openly communicative relationship about sex with my husband and with God.

    I personally believe masturbation is, at least usually, a sin, in that we are being self-indulgent with the powers that are intended to be used as partners. I believe that I feel guilt as I struggle with it not because of cultural issues but because it really is, for me, an incredibly selfish act that, for me, opens the doors to all kinds of inappropriate and/or overwhelming thoughts/feelings/desires.

    I think one of the greatest spiritual breakthroughs I have had in my personal relationship with the Savior is when I started praying more candidly about my sexual life. My sexuality is a gift from God and I believe like all aspects of my life he truly desires for me to be fulfilled in that way. Taking things to the Lord about what is or is not appropriate for my husband to do together when we have had questions has brought us closer to each other and Him. Likewise, I find it completely appropriate to ask Him to bless us with a satisfying sex life, particularly when for one reason or another we are struggling in that arena.

    My goals for my children’s sex education are these:
    1) They will know the proper names of all parts of the human body (sexual or not) and use them when appropriate, and without shame.
    2) They will know that God has given us the great gift to create life, and that it is so sacred and such an awesome responsibility that it is to be exercised only within marriage.
    3) Sex is also a gift to bring love and unity to couples, and He intended it to be pleasureable and fun. Enjoying that gift with your spouse is one of the important (and awesome!) parts of having a body.
    4) Sexual sin, like any sin, brings us away from God. Like any sin, repentance will bring us back to God. Shame is very, very different from godly sorrow, and shame comes from Satan. If in any area of your life you are suffering from shame because of sin, stop it. I love you, God loves you, you are awesome!
    5) Menstruation is NOT A CURSE (I NEVER call it that!) It can be painful and inconvenient but it is a blessing. (Sidenote: I’ve had some interesting discussions with friends about being ‘born in the covenant’ and about the physical elements of blood, water and spirit involved in birth and how that all relates).

    I’d never actually written out my goals for my children’s sexual education, but I’m glad I did! It’s like that article in one of the church magazines where they recommended figuring out what your children will need to know about sex 5 years from now and make sure they know it before they need it! Now I have a curricula 😉

  27. Rosebriars, thanks for your comment. Yes, sexuality is so taboo that it to some it might seem almost blasphemous to pray about it, which is really a shame — since God made us to be sexual creatures and all. I’m glad you could bring that kind of stuff to Him.

    I also like your 5 points of sexual education. Awesome stuff.

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