I remember having to decide whether to confess to masturbation at my baptismal interview a few months shy of my eighth birthday.
I decided to confess, since it was what god wanted, but chickened out when I was actually sitting in a room alone, across a heavy desk from my childhood bully’s dad, in my white “baptism dress.”
I went through with the baptism without telling anybody about the terrible sin I was carrying around, and promised god in prayer that I would stay clean and never do it again. Although eight-year-olds *are* champions of self restraint, I didn’t make it two weeks.
Guilt followed me through the next decade as I told myself that each interview would be the one where I would finally confess, and then failed as I sat across that desk from a parade of balding strangers.
As a Mormon girl, I felt like a profoundly broken person for having this “habit” (see: human need) at all, much less not being able to kick it.
Once I started having sex, I physically couldn’t do penetration because I would freeze up so badly (a condition called vaginismus). While my partner and I were able to overcome that, I still cry at every gynecological exam. And maybe worst of all, I didn’t ever think any of this was wrong until well into adulthood.