Guest Post: Virgin Sex

by AmyPH

Amy is a Mormon mother of three from Massachusetts. “Virgin Sex” is the result of a Moth Radio Hour-type monologue exercise.

Mormon young women are taught to guard their personal home plate with the determination and skill of Carlton Fisk, the best catcher the Red Sox ever had. Not only that, but we are taught to guard third and second base as well. In fact, the normal “bases” sex metaphor doesn’t really apply to Mormons at all. Instead, our diamond runs: hand holding, closed mouth kissing, open mouth kissing, and marriage. Obviously, this leads to a lot of confusion about just what is supposed to happen at home plate.

In the Mormon equivalent of sex education I learned that boys “Have more turn-on buttons than a 747” and that it was the girl’s job to keep him in line. At this point in the lesson, the teacher usually begins touting modest dress as our first line of defense. We must keep our shoulders, abdomen, thighs down to the knees, and everything in-between covered. These are the areas covered by Mormon garments, which adult Mormons wear under their clothes after going through a special ceremony at a Mormon Temple. In one lesson, my teacher began demonstrating how she ensures the modesty of her new clothes by contorting herself into various positions in front of the fitting room mirror to test whether her garments become exposed. Unfortunately for the efficacy of her visual aid, all the young women looking up at her from their seats got an eye full of her garments while she demonstrated these contortions.

Mormon teenage girls, wanting to be attractive, find ways to make “modest” apparel anything but. This is what I affectionately call Mormon-porn-star-chic. A walk around the Mormon school Brigham Young University is bound to present you with at least one example of these creatures. They are technically “modest” while at the same time putting all their wares on display. Their necklines are low, their breasts are pushed up, their pants are tight, and their make-up is visible at 50 yards away. Not having breasts of my own (I’m still waiting for that part of puberty to really kick in), I was partly jealous that these girls had so much to display and partly flabbergasted that they so obviously wanted to be “sexy.” After all, I thought, sex isn’t about sexiness! I knew from years of Mormon sex education that sex is not merely physical- it is spiritual, and to reduce it to the physical misses out on the best part.

A by-product of all these teachings is Mormon young women have a sense that they are more sexually mature than their male peers, assume more sexual knowledge than they actually have, and feel in control of the couple’s sexual relationship. This last bit may actually be somewhat healthy–I have no problem saying “No” if I am not in the mood, which I gather is a bit unusual in a patriarchal society like Mormonism. When my mother sat me down the day before my wedding to ask if I had any questions, I said no. My mother, being a no-nonsense New Yorker, had taught me the mechanics of sex when I was four years old (along with the knowledge that if anyone touched my private parts, she would maim them–grievously). The night before my wedding, I felt secure in the knowledge that I had guarded my home plate and second and third bases well and would marry a man who had done the same. The physical part would be easy–anybody can do that, but we were about to have a Godly sanctioned meeting of the souls, and He would guide us. Why would I need to ask my mother anything?

It turns out that the physical part is a little tricky. It’s true; anybody can do it, but not everybody can do it well–especially two virgins trying to figure it out for the first time and expecting it to be a transcendent spiritual experience. Now, in addition to threatening to punch any man in the face with keys sticking out from between her fingers that touched my private parts, my mother also introduced me to historical romance novels. Each of these books had at least one mild sex scene, which my mother advised me to skip. In order to skip, one must scan every few paragraphs (or pages, depending on the book…) to determine when the plot has moved on. During these scans, I had learned that a man often raised a woman’s hips like he held a “goblet of the most precious wine,” sex felt good, and men affectionately call women brazen hussies who want to have sex again after the first time–ever. In all of these books, the men knew what they were doing, and the woman just needed to be present and permit the man to proceed.

On my wedding night, I was prepared to permit. We had reached the Mormon home plate, where any sexual activity beyond French kissing was allowed. I stepped out of the bathroom in my newly acquired negligee ready to bestow on my husband God’s green light, and experience sex on the spiritual level we had earned with our chastity.

As an aside, not all Mormons think wearing negligee becomes a Mormon woman. Instead of a skimpy, gauzy shift, these women emerge into the bedroom on their wedding night in their Mormon undergarments–covered from shoulder to knee. To this, my mother practically responds, “What? Are they going to have sex with their garments on?” She similarly scoffs at Mormons who swim in t-shirts and shorts and change into clothes immediately afterwards. Instead, she wears her bathing suit all the way home from the beach, puts away the beach stuff, and then gets changed, thus qualifying herself as a free spirit among Mormons.

After all this build up, our first sexual experience was over…quickly. We kept at it gamely, trying to find all the buttons on the 747 that I had avoided so carefully for all of adolescence and figure out whether girls had any buttons at all. We kept waiting for spiritual transformation. It didn’t happen. Wanting to be dubbed a “brazen hussy,” I smiled through not being able to sit comfortably the next day and figured we would get to the spiritual part after we’d figured out the physical part. Note to husband: you were supposed to notice those smiles and affectionately call me a brazen hussy–not just give yourself mental pats on the backs for a job well done–we both know it wasn’t so well done that first time.

Almost thirteen years have passed, and I don’t think either of us would claim to be on closer standing with God through our sex life. We have never had a hallelujah moment, at least, not that kind, during sex, and it has struck me over the years just how wrong my Young Women’s teachers were. Either I am doing it wrong, or there is some false advertising going on. Sex is just sex. It is a pleasant physical sensation that God gave us in hopes that it would lead us to stumble into parenthood often enough to perpetuate the species. In fact, our sexual responses are so ingrained, we can respond sexually at times and under circumstances we would chose not to if we could–as innocent as a man becoming aroused when he sees an attractive woman who is not his wife or as awful as a prisoner becoming aroused by the abuse of their captor.

No, the spiritual experience does not come during sex; it grows over time. Veterans of the virgin field we have stumbled over together, we have a closeness we would not have had otherwise, and our determination to figure this strange ritual out for the pleasure of our one and only partner makes us more attuned to each other, our needs, and our desires. That said, a bit of a non-pornographic pre-marital (or post-marital) research, wouldn’t do virgin brides and grooms any harm and would do a lot of Mormon women SO much good!

 

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9 Responses

  1. OregonMum says:

    Right before we got married, my husband’s older brother and his wife told us to read “The Act of Marriage” which is pretty much a Christian sex guide. It was pretty helpful at setting up realistic expectations. It was detailed and informative without being pornographic or uber-preachy or patriarchal.

    • ElleK says:

      Friends recommended this book to us, too. Sooo thankful for it, even though some of it is cringe-worthy, since my then-fiance had never heard of a clitoris before we read it.

  2. Andrew R. says:

    13 years is way too early for Spiritually enlightened sexual experiences. Just keep at it, you’ll get there. 😉

  3. anon says:

    This is why I think recent comments by Sister Nelson can be so unhelpful, setting couples up for this expectation of supreme spiritual enlightenment in conjunction with the sometimes mundane, painful, smelly, physical reality.

  4. Ziff says:

    This is excellent, AmyPH! I love your storytelling style, in addition to your important message.

  5. MJ says:

    Preparing for my temple marriage I read several lds oriented sex Ed type books and at the time I thought they were pretty helpful, but after being married for over 5 years my husband and I (mostly I) am still dealing with the negative mentalities the church has engrained in me towards my own sexuality. I have to say reading your story I was a little jealous. My parents were not open about sex and couple that with the church’s stance that even having sexual thoughts is a sin next to death I grew up with serious self esteem (or self worth) issues and trained myself to repress any sexual feelings thinking they were evil (something that definitely affects my sexuality even though “it’s ok” now since I’m married).
    I’m currently reading the book “come as you are” and I love that it has a lot of great scientific information not only about the physical nature of sex but the physiological aspects of desire.

  6. KB says:

    I wish I felt as comfortable as you! I’ve spent my whole life terrified of sex because I was always given the impression it was all about the man and thuat my feelings didn’t matter, that in order to have a husband I’d have to give him sex whenever he wants. Basically, that marital sex was the compromise made so that “good guys” could have a release of those urges, and “good girls” had to deal with it.

    To be fair, my parents were major instigators of my skewed perspective, but I feel like church and world culture also had a big effect. People hardly ever talk about consent (which matters even in marriage, as I’m relieved to learn) or female sexuality. I’m only just becoming comfortable with the idea that I do have power in that sexual dynamic and that my feelings do matter. I wish I’d been reassured of that much sooner.

    • Andrew R. says:

      KB, that is so sad. Fortunately for me it was my mother that explained the workings of these things to me and my brother when we were expecting a new baby. We were, as I think most are, appalled at the very idea of what was involved. My mother went to great lengths to explain how pleasurable it was (not in graphic terms) – only that it was lovely and enjoyable. And for me it has always been about us both enjoying each other within bounds we are both comfortable with.

  7. Sarah Jones says:

    When I got married I was flummoxed by the no, no, NO . . . GO directions from parents and leaders. Basically, don’t even think about sex and then full speed ahead after a 30 minute ceremony. But I will say this, my oldest daughter was married a year ago. She’s at BYU and saw a gynecologist in Provo. He had an entire spiel prepared: he recommended several books, talked to her about healthy attitudes towards sex, and specifically told her that women could and should enjoy sex. From her description, it was a very enlightened way of presenting the mechanics of a sexual relationship. So, baby steps to healthy sexuality.

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