CW: some references to sex, pornography, and masturbation
In relief society this past Sunday we had a lesson on the law of chastity. But what the title should have been was “shut off your computers, lecture your children, and nag your husbands because you will all fall to evil influences if you even hear the word sex or see Hugh Jackman with his shirt off.”
How many times can we talk about the law of chastity without even talking about sex?
In my class, we talked about not having sex before marriage and pornography. I personally don’t associate either of these ideas with my sex life. For all the times I’ve been in discussions about them, I find out nothing new or interesting.
Sexual relations before marriage
When it comes to sex before marriage all I ever have heard was “don’t do it.” Nothing about healing from rape or abuse and nothing informative in the event you do actually have sex. Essentially, no one is saying anything useful or practical. There is so much shaming and very little comfort in these discussions.
Even when we talk about sex on a more ideological level, the description of sex is sacred. You are potentially creating something (you know, or not since the development of birth control). But how does that translate to reality? In my experience, sacred is not one of the first descriptive words I would use.
And then there’s pornography
That was always the thing they talked about with the young men, the young women would never violate themselves that way, right? I was never once approached about whether or not I had viewed pornography. I read a lot and would come across passages where the characters were having sex. It did occur to me that this might be classified as pornographic (especially if some people consider seeing Hugh Jackman without his shirt on as being pornographic) but I certainly never asked.
A more guarded concept then pornography is masturbation. I learned about masturbation one day on the phone with my boyfriend. He confessed he had a “problem with masturbation” which I then had to look up in the dictionary and then have him spell because I couldn’t find it.
I’ve only recently discovered that couples will watch pornography together as foreplay and that women use masturbation to figure out how to orgasm. It seems like the rest of the world outside Mormondom think porn and masturbation can be good or bad depending on what it’s used for and how often it’s used. For Mormons, it seems the negative use of both is intricately related to our culture. I was afraid for all of high school and college that not having sex would translate to having a bad sex life in marriage. I have friends who were terrified of ever having sex. Our culture encourages procreation, but not sex. It seems like our all-or-nothing approach can make for a difficult sexual transition at the onset of marriage. On top of that, we never talk about what sex really is and the realities of rape and sexual abuse.
3 ideas to improve the way we teach the law of chastity:
- Be more open about the reality of sex. Stop saying sex like it’s a dirty word and talk more positively about what sex can be. Teach that sex can be great for both partners but is not always and that it may take work and a little bit of practice before becoming that way. I think somehow we need to address masturbation for women as a potentially positive act. Church itself might not be the place for that but I personally would not be able to orgasm if I hadn’t figured it out on my own first and there are lots of women who could benefit from similar experience. In general, I think we should find a way to stop seeing masturbation as a completely negative idea. We have a large population sexually repressed singles that could benefit from a little release.
- Stop the shaming. I can only imagine how the hellfire handling of chastity affects victims of abuse and rape. People who did nothing wrong are inevitably thinking they did. How is that a good message to send to people? Additionally, people who have already had sex but want to keep coming to church, regardless of how they ultimately felt about their choice of having sex, should be able to go to church to learn about Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Parents without being judged.
- Don’t put the burden of sex on one gender over another. Women should not be responsible for men’s chastity and men should not be demeaned as animals. We are all people with a variety of sexual appetites. What if we all just responsible for ourselves?