I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s. I loved the church and never thought I would leave, but now I’m a middle-aged apostate who believes that one immense contributing factor to a loss of testimony is the church’s obsessive, abusive relationship to sexuality and shaming members.
As a young woman (teen) I was interviewed near my birthday and when being considered for a calling. Most of the time I was not asked specifically about sexuality, but sometimes I was. I had been taught that masturbation was very sinful and that I should be able to say to my church authorities when interviewed: “I have never before done that in my life” (see April 1975 Ensign magazine, talk entitled “A Self-Inflicted Purging”). Because I couldn’t say that, I consistently felt depraved and had increasingly lower and lower self esteem.
As a woman in my early 20s (single) I had a bishop I connected with (at the time I thought as a friend, but I know now it was an inappropriate friendship). I was a “righteous” girl who had not fared much so as to “stay clean,” but masturbation was still a “problem” so I would periodically confess. This bishop would not pry for details at first, but since I felt it was what Heavenly Father wanted me to do,” I would ask more, describe more, and invariably excite my bishop (I knew this even as a naive 20-something). We would talk about fabric, fingers, plastic, electronics—definitely not anything appropriate. Eventually I knew we were talking too much about it together. He would hug me when I left the office—sometimes too long and sometimes with a need for him to demonstrate that he was aroused.
I am a married middle aged woman now and I am ashamed to say that I still sometimes conjure memories of this bishop to fulfill my sexual fantasies. Mathis should never have happened. Whether masturbation is right or wrong, no one should tell, or should ask, about unmarried/couples, married or solo sexual activities.