As a student at one of the Church’s universities I confessed masturbation to my bishop. I had slipped up a bit over the summer break. Prior to that I had done it around the age of 12 not knowing what it was, but as soon as they taught about it in Young Womens I felt terrible, quit the habit and confessed to my bishop then too.
Anyway, as I went in to confess to this bishop at the start of a new semester I was sick to my stomach with humiliation and dread at the uncomfortable conversation that was to follow. But I bravely forced myself to do it, and then was astonished at his response. He said I could no longer take the sacrament, pray publicly, make comments in class, he took away my limited use temple recommend, and told me to follow up with him every week. He also gave me the miracle of forgiveness and several talks to read. I left his office sobbing, humiliated, and determined to follow his instructions and repent fully.
The one thing he did let me keep was my calling as ward music leader. Our student ward met in the school’s drama theater. So each week after leading the hymns, I had to sit up on the stage as I refused the sacrament in front of everybody. During a Sunday school class the teacher called on me to say the closing prayer, and I had to decline in front of everybody.
I did everything the bishop asked. At that time I trusted any council from a bishop to be direct from Heavenly Father. Four months later of submissive obedience he finally returned all my privileges and my temple recommend. He often told me how impressed he was with my humility compared to other kids he had to discipline.
Fast forward a few years after I met and married my husband in the temple. I was always really depressed after sex, and I didn’t understand why. I started reading lds books on intimacy in marriage, and listening to podcasts by lds sex therapists. I learned that most women don’t experience pleasure from penetration alone. The clitoris is essentially the female penis, and if it isn’t stimulated, it’s like expecting a man to enjoy sex without anything touching his penis. It just doesn’t work that way.
After a few years of pondering, praying, and studying all I could about the churches teachings on masturbation and chastity, I finally realized something had to give. Either I was going to spend the rest of my life holding to the idea that masturbation is a sin, or I was going to try and have to convince myself and my husband that it’s okay if we use our hands on each other or even ourselves during sex. It’s been a long hard road for us, but it’s been really important for me to value my experience during sex as well as my husbands. At first we were afraid of what God might think of us. I still struggle with feelings of shame and embarrassment about that part of my anatomy, but we are trying to overcome that so that intimacy in our marriage can be an expression of love that goes both ways.
I wish I didn’t have the public shame and humiliation in my past that helped internalize these unhealthy attitudes towards myself, but I am glad I can give my children better. I will teach them that masturbation is not a sin so that they can have healthier happier attitudes about their sexuality for their marriages.
Children should never discuss masturbation with an ecclesiastical leader because it’s private. Children (especially girls) need to understand how their bodies work so that they can teach their spouses later in marriage. Just as the handbook says, sex isn’t just for having children, it’s for expressing love and bonding. If people think that masturbation is a sin, it may not hurt the man’s ability to enjoy sex, but it will make it difficult for the woman. She needs to be comfortable with her body, and understand how it works, because if she doesn’t know, there is no way her husband can figure it out.