I started masturbating when I was maybe 13 years old after reading about it in a book about puberty and learning about it at school. I was simply curious. It didn’t feel sexual at all to me, more like having someone tickle your back or something. Just a pleasant physical sensation. I didn’t know for sure if I orgasmed or not, because I was never really “aroused” or anything. So any climax I might have had was very minor. It was more a case of masturbating going from pleasant to unpleasant and that’s when I would stop.
We started learning about the law of chastity in young womens and I felt I was doing ok, and never knew for sure if what I did was wrong or not because it was not specifically mentioned in any lessons and everything I had learned outside of church was that it was healthy and it wasn’t “sexual” to me so I wasn’t sure. Every time we had a lesson I tried to pay very good attention to find out if I was sinning or not. I kept worrying I was and assumed I should stop.
In YW we were often taught the importance of confessing serious sins to the bishop, and sexual sins were serious sins. One lesson a priesthood leader (maybe bishop at the time or previous bishop or stake president, I don’t remember) taught us that when we confess not only is it confidential but the bishop will forget about your sin just like God does. So we don’t need to be ashamed or scared of confessing anything, because the sins will be wiped from the bishops memory.
When I was 16 the date had been set for me to get my patriarchal blessing. As the time grew closer and closer I felt more and more uneasy.
I was worried that if I didn’t stop and didn’t confess, my sin would block the spirit so the patriarch wouldn’t be able to give me all the blessings and guidance I could have had.
One Saturday evening I said a prayer of repentance after masturbating. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the most sincere time. My difficult feelings were removed and I felt peaceful and loved and forgiven.
The next day I built up the courage and met with the bishop, the father of one of my friends in Young Women, and confessed. I was going to receive my patriarchal blessing about 1 week after that.
I explained why I had started and about how it wasn’t erotic to me, and how I felt the need to repent before my patriarchal blessing. I said I had prayed and felt that God forgave me and explained the feelings I had after the prayer. I thought that would be the end of it.
My bishop proceeded to ask me when was the last time I masturbated. (i shamefully replied that it was the day before) He asked what method I had used (a shower…) and asked if I had stopped before or after I had an orgasm. I lied. (still wasn’t quite sure if it counted as a climax cause it was so mild compared to descriptions I’d read or heard about…)
I was terrified. what if this meant he would say I had to wait to get my blessing? How would I explain that to my mom? Luckily he approved of the description I had given about feeling forgiven.
I never masturbated again until several years after I was married after my husband said several times it would probably be good if I did it to learn more about my own sexuality. I would still feel guilty though as I wasn’t sure if it was REALLY ok or an abuse of the god given power to procreate. I also struggled for years and years enjoying sex with my husband except when trying to conceive because I was worried I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons or somehow defiling the sacred act.
I can’t say which part of these later problems stem from the interview and which are just from the teachings the church has regarding sex, either way the combination of the teachings with the “worthiness interviews” has created a lot of sadness and sorrow for both me and my husband for about a decade. It has robbed us of connection and intimacy causing me to feel inadequate and sinful at the same time and my husband to feel inadequate and unloved and rejected.
It is terribly sad that the church has caused so much damage to the relationship between us, an (ex-) molly Mormon and RM, who married in the temple and stayed faithful to the church and each other.
It is only after I stopped believing in the church that I realised how badly this affected me/us and only several months after I stopped attending church that I even dared to open up to my husband about the details of that interview, giving him a bit more of an understanding of why he has felt so rejected all these years.
I would never have confessed to my bishop if I had had any other adult in the room. it was difficult enough with one, so as a TBM I would have agreed with the people saying there is a need for the opportunity to have one on one interviews. But; I only felt the need to confess because I was pressured to think I needed to through countless lessons about the need to do so, and finally did it since I believed the bishop would forget my confession. My life, my sense of self worth and my marriage and my husbands mental health would have been much better if the policies around these interviews had been different.
I can add that I’m “a millennial” so my experience is not that long ago, and it was in a country that is a lot less conservative about sexuality than the US. So it is clearly a church problem, not just a problem in the USA
I am grateful for Sams work on these issues. I am still too ashamed to even discuss this with anyone online in case showing my support for this cause would make anyone believed I had a reason to be against the interviews (suspect I sinned) So the shame is still strong and a big burden to carry.