I grew up in an LDS family in rural Idaho. I was baptized when I was eight as is the LDS standard. I would say I was fairly sheltered in my upbringing, and I mean this in the worst way possible. I was not really told what I was signing up for when they asked me if I wanted to be baptized. The worst parts would not start to emerge until I was older.
I was fairly early to hit puberty and as such at a fairly young age I discovered how to masturbate by accident. I did not even know what it was called or really what sex was (I was still in a very ignorant state. From what I had pieced together about sex, I thought it likely to be made up and I definitely did not know what a vagina was). Masturbation was a surprise to me, and would only slowly come to be connected to sex. My parents had never had a sex talk with me (Thank God, they would have caused more damage) and quite honestly never had a personal discussion with me, so I would never in a million years thought of talking to them about anything I was worried about.
Because of this as I began to connect what I was doing with sex, I began to worry. Chastity is a word tossed around in LDS church from the time you are in primary (as if young children need to be told to stay sexually pure) but it is never explained. It would have been around this time I was nearing twelve, meaning time for the receiving of the priesthood, and time for worthiness interviews. I remember my first one. It was with an elderly man in my ward I respected, at his house in fact on the day I was to be ordained. I remember sitting next to my dad in his living room and being asked if I kept the law of chastity. I remember the feeling of trying to hide my concern (apparently I was successful in that), but mostly I remember wondering what to do. “What is the law of chastity?”
I was thinking. I was 12 and clueless. I believe in all my Sunday school lessons the most clear explanations I ever got were things like “waiting til marriage” or “no dirty stuff”. It would not be until I was 14 that I read the slightly more clear idea of chastity from the church youth booklet. But so in my ignorance and slight panic I said “yes.”
Time went on, I heard the word masturbate, I learned it’s meaning. I had long at this point, before even that interview, been struggling to quit what I then thought of as disgusting and unclean. When I saw my friends I would wonder if they were doing it as well, or if it was just me who was trapped in my moral weakness.
I fought and fought on. More and more interviews went by. I dreaded them, and the struggle to keep my face cool, my voice steady in my “yes.” I remember the men in my ward asking me the chastity question and sometimes adding a “are you sure?” I often think how uncomfortable and assured this made me feel, and now think how much worse that must be for the many girls of that church to be taken alone into a room with an older man to be interrogated on their sex life. That is sexual assault.
For at least two years, I truthfully had no idea if my actions broke this mysterious law of chastity and then once I learned, I thought how it would go to be truthful. “I’ve been lying to you for years, but I swear, I didn’t know.” I decided I had to get rid of my problem before I went through the obligatory repentance process that was pushed at me weekly in nearly every Sunday school lesson with teachers reminding their pupils the necessary action for extremely severe sin.
Sexual sins being only less bad than murder. I could not stand the thought of talking through what I had done with my genitals with some older man. This guilt was only made worse when my dad was made bishop, now I was facing making my confession strait to my dad after years of disobedience.
Through the years I tried all kinds of things to try to escape what I was sure was letting my god down, what I was sure I would have to tell my parents about and have my dad and possibly other older men interrogate me on my actions. I would hit myself, leave myself cryptic notes, arrange certain things to remind me of all the reasons I’d came up with to not masturbate. Leave out items to remind of the people I was letting down. Maybe the quarter in the bathroom reminded me of Jesus, maybe the book upside down in my bedroom represented my parents. Put a band aid on my leg to remind me. Wrap my dick in tape to try to prevent my sin (ouch).
Nothing would work though, no matter how long I went, my methods would always fail eventually. I was masturbating before I could even orgasm, and so had never been sexually developed without consistent masturbation. My body would not have nighttime ejaculation no matter how long I went, it was like I had never learned how.
At times I would consider neutering myself, I often thought on how I might do it. I knew you could do it with a tourniquet, which we conveniently had in our family first aid kit. I considered this many times, encouraged on by the biblical commandment to cast off body parts that offend you. I think I only didn’t because I came to view this as the easy out, if some people didn’t need to masturbate neither would I.
And so my self abuse and hatred continued, and in my case I actually succeeded. I stopped masturbating. However, then not consumed by my obsession to be free of such a disgusting sin, I trusted myself. I no longer passed off all my doubts and lack of faith as originating from the sin that had taken me. I could think clearly, and what I saw disgusted me, the religion that had held me in guilt for years was a con mans lie. This would not all come at once, it was a slow awakening. Later though I was able to “confess” my sins to the man who I once dreaded having to talk to in worthiness interviews in the same letter I resigned from that toxic church. They would never control me again, but the trauma and hatred they leave takes longer to go away, for some it never does. I am glad to now be free of that religion and free of my guilt knowing it is wrong.