Growing up I was taught in church that masturbation was the most vile and nasty thing and no one did it except really bad people, at least that is the impression I got. I had so much fear and shame around masturbation that I would never allow myself to masturbate but I did everything else I could to deal with the explosion of sexual feeling running through my body. When I was 17 I saw a woman who was skilled in reading handwriting. She told me various things about myself but the one thing I remember was she said I was extremely sexually repressed and showed me how my handwriting showed that. I was shocked to hear this but I knew it was true, but what could I do about that as any expression of sexuality was a sin I would have to repent from and I was expected to tell my Bishop everything.
In high school a class I was in was showing the movie Schindler’s List and I forged my Moms signature on a permission slip so I could watch the movie since it was rated R. I happened to get called into the Bishops office the next Sunday for some reason and so I told him what I did and about the brief nude scene in the movie. He told me he didn’t want me participating in blessing the sacrament for a week because he thought I would be unable to think about anything expect the naked woman from the movie and that somehow would taint the sacrament and scare away the Spirit for everyone in the congregation. I was so surprised and hurt, could my actions really taint the sacrament, and did he see me as some person who couldn’t think of anything but sex?
When I was going through all the interviews before my mission I was working on not watching porn and every time the Bishop didn’t believe me when I would tell him I didn’t masturbate even though it was true. In my finale interview before my mission I lied to my Bishop and told him I had stopped watching porn even though I had slipped a few times because I was trying so hard to be good. He then asked me if I mentally masturbated and he explained that is where you think about sexual things with an erection and I confessed to doing that. He told me that it wasn’t good to do that but it wasn’t enough to not send me on my mission but that I needed to stop so I wouldn’t scare the spirit away. I tried so hard to follow the rules and repent but it seemed whatever I did it would never be enough.
My whole mission I did really good with only one or two slips the whole two years but once I got home all the mental constructs I had set up to deal with the sexual repression came crashing down. For the next seven years I was going in and out of Bishops offices working with them dealing with varying levels of porn usage and masturbation. I would spend hours pleading and crying with God to help me stop looking at porn and masturbating and to some how forgive me. At the same time this was happening I was going to my doctor a couple times a year about a pinching pain in my testicles. Ever time I was given antibiotics because I was told I had an infection in the tubes that connected to my testicles. Finally after many years this it got worse and worse and my doctor sent me to a specialist and after listening to how the pain would jump around he said it was from stress. Something was causing mental distress that was being expressed in my body. All of a sudden it all became clear to me. All this mental abuse I was putting myself through trying to stop porn and masturbation was extremely harmful. I still wanted to stop porn and masturbation but for the sake of my body and mental health I started telling myself that is was ok to express my sexuality however that was. I would relax and stop feeling shame and guilt whenever I looked at porn or masturbated. The pain went away. The only times it would come back I could trace it back to something that had caused me to feel shame. Once I could realize the guilt or shame and let it go away and tell myself it was okay to express myself sexually then the pain would go away, every time. I started discovering that Bishop interviews were the worst for me. Every time I would confess to my Bishop that I was struggling with porn and masturbation my testicles would hurt so so bad for days at a time until I could let go and tell myself it was okay to express my sexuality. After over a decade of dealing with this I had to stop going to church partially due to the shame and guilt. I could never be enough and when I would try it would literally cause me pain. Even now the smallest amount of sexual shame will cause my testicles to hurt. It’s been an amazing lesson for me on how destructive shame and guilt can be and the important of self acceptance and love and that it’s not how you express your sexuality that is important but the feelings behind the expression and the great importance of love.
Another great lesson I learned it that my connection to the Spirit was not taken away from how I was expressing myself sexually, it was only the guilt and shame. As long as I prayed and meditated I could connect to God and I had many amazing spiritual experiences even when my porn usage was the worst. Can we please stop having Bishops ask questions that cause shame? Let’s focus on teaching people on how to really connect to God’s love on a deep level. If someone breaks the churches rules can we approach the situation with an approach of love and not with fear, shame and guilt? Love heals all. Shame and guilt are destructive and tear down people and are part of a giant shadow that the church both ignores and is ignorant of.