I grew up in a traditional Mormon family. As a teenage boy, I could always tell I was a very sexual person. I had an intense curiosity about sex from an early age and no one to talk to or ask questions to. This led to experimentation. I began masturbating before I had even hit puberty, not knowing that it was a sin and somehow not making the connection that it was linked to sex. By the time I was 14, a friend of mine had agreed to making out and petting. In addition, another friend had informed me that the church frowned upon masturbation.
Overwhelmed with guilt at what I had done, I met with the bishop and confessed to him that I masturbated and had broken the law of chastity with someone. Feeling an intense level of shame and crying profusely, I had written a letter to give to my bishop so that I didn’t have to try and talk through the tears. He refused to read it, instead asking me to read it to him and then beginning a series of prying questions about what, specifically, had occurred.
“Did you touch her breasts? Did you kiss her breasts? Were either of your shirts removed? Did either of you take off your pants? Did you touch her butt? Did you touch her genitals? Over her underwear or under them? Did you insert a finger into her? Did she touch your penis? Did your mouth come in contact with her genitals? Did hers ever come in contact with yours?” The questions kept coming, and I answered them as best as I could, embarrassed and worried that withholding information would be cause for spiritual punishment and an inability to repent. He pressed me for a name of the person. When the questions were finished, the bishop told me he wanted to start meeting with me every week about masturbation. And so I did. Every week, he would ask how many times I masturbated, whether I was thinking about specific people when I did so, and whether I was having sexual thoughts about girls on a day-to-day basis. I began an effort to shut out thoughts of a sexual nature.
This continued for several years, with phases of “winning” the battle and phases of “losing” the battle. At some point, the bishop advised me to text him every time I made a mistake and masturbated. With each slip up, I became more discouraged, more hateful of myself, and more embarrassed by the texts I would send him. While the bishop seemed to mean well, these regular meetings tore apart my views of sex. Every sexual thought became dangerous and in need of repression, and my self-worth became tied to my ability to abstain from masturbation. At some point I entered a relationship, and would do things such as cancel dates with her or stop talking to her if I had masturbated that day. I’d often tell her that she deserved someone better than me, someone who didn’t do those things – and that was frequently my justification for abandoning our relationship for days a time. I would confess to her when she had popped into my head while masturbating, expressing disgust that I had treated her as an object. This was one of the major contributing factors to the demise of our relationship.
The longer this went on, the more impossible it was to quit, and the more angry and depressed I became. The cycle continued for years, and to this day I find that I have a habit of repressing my own natural thoughts and feeling a sense of self-loathing when they arise. I have developed an intense fear of sex that I don’t know how to overcome.
I came to find out that when I had shared my original story with the bishop about the girl who I’d experimented with, he contacted her bishop who pulled her in for an interview and interrogated her with many of the same questions that I had been interrogated with. She later told me the details of those questions, which were amazingly more intrusive than my own, when I felt that a simple “I have broken the law of chastity; I didn’t have intercourse, but I definitely crossed a line and need to repent” would have sufficed. She was embittered at me for causing an involuntary confession from her to her bishop that she wasn’t ready to make, and experienced similar shame and lasting self-loathing for what had happened between us.