molly mormon’s sexuality
Guest post by Rebekah
I’ve heard the horror stories about the licked cupcake Young Women’s lessons and parents who fainted over or ignored their children’s questions about sex. I thought I came out okay. Sure, I had the standard Young Women’s lessons about how we must be modest because boys can’t control themselves, and no, my parents didn’t tell me much about sex at all, but I did grow up knowing the terms “penis” and “vagina.” I thought I got off easy.
Then I got engaged. (Those of you who have been engaged or witnessed this may all smile knowingly now.) Suddenly, I was dealing with people wondering about if I wanted lingerie and making sure that we weren’t out by ourselves too late and my fiancé buying us a bed and me setting an appointment for a pre-marital check-up. I was kind of forced to realize that (1) somehow my chastity seemed to be everybody’s concern, and (2) beyond the basic idea of how a penis and a vagina fit together, I knew absolutely NOTHING about sex.
Okay, not absolutely nothing, just close to it. I heard “orgasm” for the first time at school in eighth grade and looked it up in the dictionary at home. I had learned the term “hymen” while reading a book in high school about the status of women in the Middle East (well, learned the word. I still didn’t know what it was, just that it sometimes broke when you had sex the first time). I had to look up the term “clitoris” after coming across it my junior year at college in a Mormon Feminist blog, though I didn’t learn where it was, just that it was the female organ for sexual pleasure. I knew what masturbation meant, but I didn’t have a clue how it was even possible for girls, as there seemed to be nothing to touch.
Overall, I realized that I should probably get some sort of an education, and since my parents hadn’t been all that forthright with specific information, I decided that my best bet was what English majors do best: read a book. I had heard that And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura M. Brotherson was supposed to be pretty good, so I girded my loins, bought it as an e-book, and began to read.
The book was okay. I wasn’t all that impressed with the writing, but it did give a good chunk of the information that I lacked in a tasteful, straightforward manner—and somehow, it still left me kind of traumatized. I spent the next three days unable to think of anything but how weird and kind of gross the whole thing sounded, not to mention the unexpected complexity of reaching orgasm. I had kind of assumed it would just happen. The fear rose in me—could I really make this work? I love my fiancé, but. . . do I really want to experiment with another naked body? I eventually told my fiancé why I wasn’t doing so great, which made him realize he knew nothing either, which made him do his own research and have his own freakouts.
I told you, I thought I didn’t have the stereotypical Mormon girl issues constantly talked about on the bloggernacle. I had instinctively shrugged off the modesty lessons that turned into shaming, and I was comfortable saying “sex” in conversation instead of dancing around it. However, I had to work to make myself get any degree of knowledge about it. I was curious, yes, but I felt myself getting more and more fearful about the whole thing, even though what the book was saying was that it’s not something to be scared of.
The fear subsided as the information sunk in. Before I got married I even managed to read a bit more in-depth, perusing The Act of Marriage and my roommate’s nursing textbook. It took a while to adjust, but now I’m okay with knowing where my glans clitoris is. (Finding it was interesting. . . “Okay, lump of tissue above the vagina. . . that looks right. . . oh, MY, that is SENSITIVE!”) As I got closer and closer to the wedding, my parents finally broached the subject—not to give any practical advice, but to warn me that my husband’s sex drive would be stronger than mine, which could be a problem if I didn’t learn to “give in” once in a while. So far, that piece of advice has said a lot more about my parents’ marriage than about mine.
However, I’m left with a lot of resentment. I’m downright angry at a culture that made me learn my anatomy from hearsay, looking things up sporadically and never feeling like I had the right to get to know my own body. The few times that I had looked at my vagina to figure out what was going on down there I had felt incredibly guilty. I wouldn’t say that I blame my parents, but I am kind of mad that I had to learn about my body on my own, even when they don’t support school sex-education because “those lessons should be learned in the home.” I’m mad that it took me until age twenty-one to learn any sort of specifics about a process that God has deemed good and holy, and that when I did learn about it, it freaked me out for three days straight. I’m just glad my husband and I got our freakouts over before the wedding night. I don’t want to think about what it would have been like if we hadn’t gone out and done our research before and talked about it.
It could have been worse—it has been worse for so many people. I could have been like those girls and not learned a thing beforehand, going in scared, clueless, and shameful. After this, I have decided that no someday child of mine is going to have to learn what a hymen is from a book as an eighteen-year-old. Nobody should.
11 Responses to “molly mormon’s sexuality”
Great article. Question: why did you need to have a pre marital check up? What does that mean and entail?
“Pre-marital checkup” may mean first Gyn appointment. I didn’t have my first appointment until the summer I got married.
In terms of education, we had fairly comprehensive sex ed in school beginning in 7th grade, and a very comprehensive required class in high school. I think there was maybe one person in my class of ~90 that was excused for a religious objection.
My freshman year of college, one thing that was in the “Welcome” materials for women was a copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” which had recently been updated. My mother dropped me off at school and snagged an extra copy of that to take home for my sister who was in 9th grade at the time.
I went through an angry spell too, but not until AFTER I had a traumatic honeymoon. My lack of preparation for the Act of Marriage nearly destroyed me AND my marriage. I’m finding that there are a few LDS families out there that do create healthy environments for learning positive attitudes about intimacy, but I sure didn’t grow up in one (because my parents didn’t either). That’s the #1 reason why I blog, to help other Molly Mormons get through what I did. Sex is supposed to be fun! Let’s teach our daughters that!!
Really a fantastic article. I can understand your anger, and because of it your own children (if you have any) are certain to be better off.
But is it really the Church’s job to train and prepare people to have a good sex life when married? No, it is the church’s job to help people keep commandments and repent of sins, do the work for the dead, and spread the gospel to others.
It is the parent’s job to teach their children these things and they are the ones dropping the ball.
That’s true, Paul. But in church we stress over and over: chastity, modesty, chastity, modesty, and that imbalance toward “no, no, no, no,” sends a clear message, sets an undeniable tone, and perpetuates an existing problem. The church has a lot of power over the way we handle sexuality within our families, and a lot of church leaders take for granted the influence they have, not only in WHAT they say, but HOW they say it. For something that can really make or break marriage, family, or life in general, we really leave it up to chance. Which works just fine for men and their 99.9% guaranteed orgasms, but not so much for women for whom sexuality is MUCH more complicated. 80 percent of women have difficulty climaxing from vaginal intercourse alone. That’s 4 out of 5 women who don’t have a chance at enjoying sex unless they start TALKING about it and learning more about their bodies. But it doesn’t happen among the people we love and trust most because it’s taboo for most Mormons (culturally, not doctrinally) to talk about sex openly. Which is a shame, because it could be so easily fixed with just a couple honest conversations. I think if it were men having so much trouble understanding and enjoying sex, we’d talk about it a lot more openly. Because they’re the ones who ultimately decide what’s appropriate and necessary to discuss in church meetings. But we still have this latent belief that women aren’t supposed to understand sex, that they’re too refined, that it’s men who are supposed to be carnal and women are supposed to keep them in check. And it goes uncorrected because we never talk about it. Vicious cycle.
But there is nothing wrong with teaching chastity and modesty, they are true principles and the church should be teaching those things. Granted, some people don’t teach them well, but for myself I never ran into any anti-sex leaders and really don’t see a connection between chastity/modesty and the idea that sex withing marriage is bad/dirty etc. I grew up in the church and was a youth way back in the 80’s and got all the same instruction, I never saw any reason to see sex within marriage in a negative light. The message was clear that it was good and special and wonderful when wait for the right time and destructive and sinful if you jump the gun.
But when it comes to teaching a woman about her clitoris, or how to have effective foreplay, or anything like that, that is something the parents really need to address with their kids (at least to point them to good resources). It just isn’t the church’s job, and if you think there is a widespread problem with teaching modesty, why would you want the same people going further into this area with the youth?
In my case I had to resort to self-study. My parents both grew up in Protestant faiths and converted as adults and they could not talk about sex with their kids at all, this isn’t a ‘Mormon’ thing, it is more a generational thing I think. Anyway, I quickly learned that they were not going to be very helpful and I turned to what books on it I could secretly read in the library (thankfully not to porn). And when I say secretly read, that wasn’t because I though sex was shameful, but I didn’t want to others to see me, give me a hard time about it, and know I was ignorant about such things.
Wow I did not realize that there was such an ignorance about sex among church members. If it is really as bad as you all are saying then I feel kind of weird being a man and knowing more about the female body than many woman know about themselves. It seriously baffles me that someone, a guy or girl, could be 21 and not know what the clitoris is and how important it is in sex. We definitely need to become more “cliterate” as a society.
I actually have had the opposite “Molly Mormon sexuality” problem. I have had a very high sex drive since I started going through puberty at the age of 11. I struggled with masturbation (which I discovered on my own, didn’t know there was a word for it, and didn’t even know it was considered a sin until I read about it in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet) all through my teenage years. None of my Young Women or other church leaders ever addressed the fact that we girls might be having sexual urges of our own. When I confessed to my bishop about my problem with masturbation (a mortifying experience for a young girl that still haunts me to this day), his response was “I’ve never had a girl come to me about this” and “You should read your scriptures more often,” neither of which was at all helpful, and the former made me feel like an absolute freak.
It has caused strife in my marriage because I have a higher sex drive than my husband, and we were both told all throughout our youth that men were the ones with uncontrollable desire and women had to just do it for the sake of their husbands even if they weren’t into it. Now that we have a one-year-old, sleep deprivation and breastfeeding have lowered my libido to the point where we’re pretty evenly keeled, but I’m worried it will bounce back up once he’s weaned.
I think church leaders do a disservice to young women when they refuse to acknowledge that they might have sexual urges and temptations as strong as any boy’s. They aren’t equipped with the tools to fight temptation like the boys are, and when they do fall into temptation, it feels so much worse because they’re supposed to be a member of the “moral and virtuous gender,” whereas boys are practically expected to give in to temptation at some point or another. In fact, my heart is pounding as I type this even though I plan to post it anonymously because I worry that everyone who reads it will think I am a horrible, depraved nymphomaniac. But I feel like I need to post it in case there are any other women out there reading this who have had a similar experience so you know you’re not alone, because I know it would be a great comfort to me to know that I am not the only LDS woman with a more-than-healthy sex drive.
As a mormon not from American, I find this issue very strange. Sex is not bad, I’ve never been taught that it was. The LDS WEBSITE has a great section/clips on discussing sex with children. I imagine it’s primarily aimed at Lds in America who seem to live/follow/blame the culture- and it’s definitely the culture at fault here not the religion. It’s actually a great resource to use with best practice secular research evidently gone into it, with a strong focus on information & no shame. Check it out for those interested. As someone who works in this field, I think it’s great. PS. I participated in and learned sex education at a developmentally relevant age. Nowhere does/did my religion teach that sex or the body is shameful. Seems like some seem to have got the wrong end of the culture stick. Let go of both shame & blame- your sex life will be better for it. All things are a go, as long as both people respect each other. Good rule of thumb, if you both feel comfortable, do it and it will bring you closer. Also nothing wrong with two people in a marriage discovering the clitoris or each other. Sex isn’t great the first time even for those who don’t follow the law of chastity- the process of discovery is a beautiful thing!
Thank you for sharing your story.
There is a forum that tries to help LDS members come to grips with their sexuality and learn things they were not taught growing up.