Virginal Sex

 

By Anonymous

No one ever instructed me about sex. When I was about 12 years old I figured out the basics from a magazine article about female condoms in my parents’ living room. Soon thereafter, I saw vague diagrams in a middle school science class, but remained quite naive.

 

At some point in my religious education I began to be taught that ‘marital intimacy’ is special and sacred and holy. My years as a young woman in church were filled with lessons on the virtue of ‘purity’; which was presented as a code word for chastity – and it could be lost. I was supposed to defend it. I was told that romance novels were pornography and never to read them. Even speaking the word ‘sex’ was taboo; I was taught to avoid even thinking about, much less engaging in sex. I was taught to wait until marriage. I was promised that would make it the special, powerful, and sacred act it is supposed to be.

 

When I was barely 20. I sat in the BYU library and read what I could find about sex in the week leading up to my marriage. I didn’t know anyone more informed than myself to enlighten me about this mysterious practice I would soon be authorized to participate in. I had no idea how to be actively involved in the act of sex, or that I should enjoy it. A roommate who was also engaged told me that her older sister warned her it would hurt. No one talked to my husband about sex either.

 

Two days after our spring wedding we had successful intercourse for the first time. ‘Successful’ meaning my husband deposited sperm in my vagina. This was sex as I understood it. As I had been prepared to understand it. I was basically a passive participant. The act left the opening of my vagina torn in three places due to my very tight hymen and inadequate arousal. I called my mom the next night because I had finally gotten a hand mirror and looked down there and it was still hurting and bleeding. I told her I could see three places had torn. She said it’s not a big deal. She said you still have to give him sex so he will feel loved. My body was mangled and my own mother said it was no big deal! There was no discussion about how this had happened or what to do to improve the situation. This was the first and only time I ever in my life spoke to my mother about anything of a sexual nature.

 

Four months later we were back for fall semester at BYU and I finally went to a doctor to get some repair work done. A few snips were significant in reducing the pain I had continued to have. Still no one told me what had happened to me was abnormal or preventable.

 

The way I had been taught in the church, I didn’t expect to have sexual feelings. I spent a lot of energy suppressing these as a teen and young adult. I strove to be the ‘pure’ woman of God I was supposed to be to enjoy peace and happiness in life. I avoided romance novels and sexy movies. I was careful what media I engaged with and avoided what I was suppose to avoid. I was never told what I should do to make the experience more enjoyable for myself and my spouse except to be ‘pure’.

 

There was one time in the early years of marriage I actually felt particularly good during sex. My husband finished and rolled off. I asked him to touch me, but he declined; he was done and fell asleep. I touched myself. I experienced my first small orgasm. Ashamed and demoralized that I had masturbated, I confessed to my husband the next day. He thought I needed to tell the bishop, so I did. I was not allowed to take the sacrament for a while.

 

Six years later, while pregnant with my first son (my fourth pregnancy), I experience an orgasm during sex with my husband for the first time. Wow. Is this what he’s been experiencing all along? Did it take that extra bit of testosterone from the baby for me to join in the fun? In the next few years, this happened only occasionally, more often when I was pregnant. I was so naive that I still really didn’t understand my own body’s capacity for arousal and sexual activity.

 

The typical sexual experience in the first 14 years of my marriage was one initiated by my husband in the middle of the night. By the time I became partially aroused, he was done and asleep again. I was left wide awake with no prospects of fulfillment.I became increasingly frustrated with this status quo. I read LDS books on marriage and tried to awaken my sexuality, still concerned that I was getting my information from the approved channel.

 

Gradually I began to feel cheated. God had made my female body in such a way that arousal and sexuality was hugely complex and difficult to enjoy, yet the bulk of reproduction was directly my responsibility and pain. God made men that they might have joy, but women that they might suffer bringing forth the children of men. My main goal in a sexual encounter was to avoid discomfort, and I only rarely felt any physical pleasure. Sex was a huge disappointment in my life.

 

Sex is so built up (and yet so taboo) in LDS culture. Why is it that we can’t even say the word ‘sex’ in an LDS context? Talks about “God ordained marital intimacy” really seem to have set women like me up for disappointment. Sex was supposed to a special powerful act reserved for the context of a celestial marriage. Living the law of chastity was supposed to have made my love deeper, richer, more meaningful. Growing up, I was frequently reminded that only by perfect obedience could I find true happiness. I think that is one main reason why, for me, I was left feeling so disappointed. Despite my best intentions, and living according to the commandments, I often felt like I had been used and was more lonely after sex rather than loved, nurtured and understood. If personal purity is the key to the joy of marriage and sex, and I am not happy in the sexual aspect of my marriage am I to conclude I am not pure enough? That hardly seems fair when the people involved (myself and my spouse) are not given an approved channel for becoming informed of sexuality except through the Holy Ghost. I found the Holy Ghost to be just as absent in teaching me as everyone else in my life. My prayers for help in this area of my marriage were left unanswered.

 

I have come to a place where I now reject many of the ideas I was taught about sex. First, I was taught sensuality was among the carnal ‘worldly’ passions to be avoided. But the only way I could begin to enjoy sex was by letting go and allowing myself to enjoy my body and my sensuality. Focusing on enjoying the feel of the wind on my skin, relaxing in a warm bath, the feel of my husbands skin against mine, etc. Experience has taught me that I will enjoy sex with my husband a lot more if I break many of the proscriptions I was taught. If I read or watch something romantic or sexy I will be more likely to get in the mood and have a better experience. I think it was wrong that I was taught anything to do with sex was basically pornography and off-limits. I’ve learned from reading about women’s sexuality that women are often better able to enjoy sex when they think about it first. Having been taught that ‘preoccupation with sex in thought word or deed’ was wrong because it did not give the context for when it would be appropriate to engage in sexual thoughts in order to prepare for an enjoyable experience with your mate. It was wrong that I was punished for trying to explore and understand my body’s ability to experience pleasure. How could I teach my husband about my body if I didn’t know myself? Most of all, it was wrong to throw two ignorant, naive, yet ‘pure’ young adults together and expect them to figure things out on their own once are married; and to promise them it would be amazing if done this way. It was wrong to have sex become so taboo that no one talks about it. And what if mutual satisfaction were part of the standard for what constituted ‘sex’? Not just what is necessary to procreate, but what is necessary to bring both husband and wife joy and fulfillment from their expression of love? Growing up in the church, I was also taught that only those who achieved the highest degree of the celestial kingdom would continue having sex eternally. What a strange doctrine we have!

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23 Responses

  1. Mindy says:

    Oh my. How sad. I’m a 62 year old never mormon grandma and I find your post so disturbing. Growing up in the midwest I hadn’t even heard of the LDS church until a pair of sister missionaries knocked on my door when I was 24 and a stay at home mom with a 2 year old. Nice girls, in fact, Im still in contact with one of them. Even then as a young married woman I realized that the LDS church was too authoritarian for me. I was looking up something my LDS friend had emailed me about (a different subject all together) and came upon your blog. I have been a Presbyterian my entire life. Attended church, SS, Vacation Bible Schools and youth groups at numerous denominations because of relatives, friends and neighbors having varied beliefs. NEVER in my life have I heard sex or sex practices preached from the pulpit or in classes or meetings. NEVER. What is wrong with the LDS church? Its so creepy. I feel so sorry that a part of life that can be so satisfying and lets face it, FUN, has been so difficult for you because of a church doctrine that is so twisted. The same goes for the subject of pornography. I dont understand why it is even brought up in a church setting. It isnt brought up in any church that I have ever heard of unless it is some type of special group like AA, NA or PA that is sponsored by a church and meets separately. I sincerely hope that you work through this and eventually enjoy your sex life without church interference.

  2. LeNae says:

    Well said and pertinent. It takes some bravery to bring these things forward. My belief is that a large amount of LDS women would have the same story if telling it would not have all of the same implications and feelings that the experience did, on all levels; inadequacy, isolation, guilt, despair, and emotional pain from being discounted and unheard. Thanks you for sharing.

  3. Dani Addante says:

    I too have heard comments like, “If you don’t give your husband sex, he will look elsewhere.” This makes it sound like it’s the woman’s fault if the husband cheats. This is completely wrong. That’s awful that you were torn and your mother said it was no big deal. It’s never okay for the woman to be in pain. I read several books about sex before getting married. Thank goodness one book explained things so well and said that the woman needs to get her orgasm first, and then the man. That’s what has worked for me for years. Very few women get orgasms from intercourse itself. That’s why a lot of foreplay is required. Even though I heard comments about how sex is just for men, I didn’t really believe that, especially when I really enjoyed sex. It’s always been important for me to enjoy sex too. If I don’t get an orgasm, then neither does he. This is an agreement that we made. As for thinking about sex, after getting married I just believed that thinking about sex was okay and I have continued to think about it freely. Also, I do remember one time at a youth conference, when a woman talked about how after you get married you can have “a great sex life.” When I heard that I was surprised, since people at church never talk about sex. Also, many sex books focus on how men experience sex. But the book “And they were not ashamed” is written by a woman and writes about how women experience sex. I highly recommend that book.

  4. Suzann says:

    Thank you for bravely sharing. Your voice is important.

  5. Mike says:

    I have formed the opinion that entering into marriage in a virginal state is shameful and foolish. If I had it to do over again, I would have sex with all those BYU coeds who wanted to do it with me, instead of copping my returned missionary attitude. I’m so sorry, Mary S.! I was an idiot, wasn’t I?

    • Lily says:

      Moderators: This man is calling those who live the law of chastity “shameful and foolish”, but you still let it through? If I called those who didn’t live the law of chastity shameful and foolish you would no doubt block my comment or call me out.

  6. Casey says:

    Reading the article above and the post below made me think that I should offer my two cents. Growing up in Utah I can say that I relate to all that was said, but I have learned that one must separate Mormon culture from the teachings of the LDS church and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately many people, no matter what group, seem to feel the need to be holier than everyone else. This unfortunately gives a bad name to everyone else.
    Having said that, one must understand that following the teachings of Jesus Christ is the only way to true happiness. Keeping ones self a virgin before marriage and being chaste after marriage is the doctrine. This applies equally to men and women. No wife should ever feel like she has to give sex to her husband, and anyone who says otherwise is following the devil. President Kimball wrote a very good book on sex that I wish I could find again, but in there he talks about becoming one. In this context sex is mentioned to bring husband and wife together, she should not be a passive participant. Another great book is titled; and they are not ashamed. This goes into a lot of detail about some of the baggage that comes from the culture and some mechanics to help sex be more pleasurable for the woman.
    I would also like to address the comment about sex after death, that is not doctrine. We do know that we will continue to have posterity after death if we are faithful, but how that is accomplished we don’t know. This concept came when someone asked Brigham Young about how we continue to have kids here after, and he said in effect, I suppose the same way we do now.
    Finally, the church is not too controlling, it teaches the true gospel of Jesus Christ. And we must remember that it takes our very best efforts to live up to what He expects of us. But he is there every step of the way to help us, and to make up for the short sighted and narrow mindedness of humans. I agree that we should be more open in talking about sex so that these false notions can be dispelled.

    • Tammy says:

      The LDS church created the culture of which you speak. The LDS church has the power to fix it but doesn’t see itself as the creator of the problem, so it not only continues, but gets worse.

      It is frustrating when members don’t allow other members to question or criticize the church. That’s tantamount to cult thinking. Just stop.

      • brotherdiaz says:

        Agreed. The LDS church, which is really no more than a body of believers who help create and influence the culture, need to recognize that we have a problem and fix it.

  7. Tammy says:

    Well written, and so poignant. Women have a FAR greater capacity for sexuality than men, and yet we are often left cheated. This should not happen. There is so much more to sex than the basics. The LDS church really skewed my view of sexuality, and my sense of self as a sexual being. I refuse to allow that anymore.

  8. Dave says:

    You should listen to the “Ask a Mormon Sex Therapist” podcasts on Rational Faiths. Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is amazing and helpful in breaking down social taboos and separating doctrine from ‘culture.’

    • Miriam says:

      Except that it is deeply rooted in doctrine, Dave, and in official church teachings. Sexual shame and unhealthy sexual practice is ubiquitous in the church, not only the ‘culture.’

      • Dave says:

        Except that it is not rooted in doctrine. The sex shaming in the church is 100% culture based. There is a big difference. And perhaps if you listened to the podcast I suggested rather that dismissing it out of hand without knowing anything about it you might learn a few things.

      • brotherdiaz says:

        Not all guilt is pathological (and I know some will beg to differ with me on this). But I do get that a lot of the shame that comes from the way we talk about sexuality in the Church is avoidable and unnecessary and we should continue to work on that.

        I don’t feel that I need to give up on teachings of chastity in order to still apply a greater and better sex-positive understanding into a marriage relationship.

    • Tammy says:

      Dave, Dave, Dave…the church created the culture. Whether inadvertently or not it is the creator of the culture.

      Focusing on a woman’s purity, virtue and modesty, taught from the pulpit. Unhealthy sexual teachings, taught from the pulpit.

      I know it’s hard to hear people criticizing the church, but the church will be fine, I promise.

      • Dave says:

        Tammy, I have no problem with criticizing the institution of the church. It is not infallible and is fraught with errors and led by imperfect mortal men. There is much that needs to be changed, including how we teach (or avoid teaching) our youth and other members about sex. All I am trying to do is get people, both members and leaders of the church, to understand that they have created a toxic culture, as you say. And that the culture is different from the doctrine and theology of the gospel. When people start to realize that then we will start see changes and progress. And because of that I recommended a great podcast that addresses those issues. Try giving it a listen. I wish all members of the church would so they can begin to see and grow and become better.

  9. One thing that I think helps virginal couples (that I took advantage of when I was engaged) is a premarital exam. I was raised in a predominantly Mormon community where these were common. I know they are less common elsewhere, because people are assumed to already be sexually active when they marry, but you can schedule a typical women’s health exam anywhere and come prepared to ask these questions: https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2017/03/premarital-exam.php

    Another option that can help couples where one or both partners is opposed to masturbation is to establish an understanding between husband and wife that touching yourselves in the context of your shared sex life (such as the case you described, in which you touched yourself as a way of completing your orgasm after a shared sexual experience) is different from masturbating, which could be defined as choosing to have a sexual experience by yourself instead of inviting your partner to have a sexual experience with you.

  10. Kol says:

    This reminded me of a blogpost my wife did for one of her classes in university. We were absolutely clueless our first time, so we try to make every bridal shower gift something that will help the new couple for their first time. http://sothisislovely.blogspot.com/2014/11/practical-bridal-shower-gifts.html#comment-form

  11. Ziff says:

    Wow, this is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, as you outline so clearly, there’s really not much in the Church that pushes people toward having healthy, mutually satisfying sexual relationships with their marriage partners. There’s mostly just exhortation to not have sex before you’re married, and then to have at least enough sex once you’re married to have some kids. That’s it. And when Church leaders feel that achieving the first goal is best done by applying giant doses of shame around the whole topic, the result is a strong push away from people having good sex lives. Thanks for illustrating this problem so starkly.

  12. Gina Judd says:

    As an LDS Marriage Counselor, I can attest to the fact that such experiences are heartbreakingly common, although few women and/or couples are able to share with others.
    I find that this is due more to the discomfort parents and teachers have about talking with their children and youth about sex, and they are uncomfortable because of the discomfort of the generation before them. Thankfully, things are changing–slowly.

    We can do better. Sex education is best taught on an ongoing basis by parents with their children. We need to raise sexually literate children. Imagine if we taught children to read in the same embarrassed, awkward way sex is taught. We’d have an epidemic of illiteracy on our hands! A conversation about reading would go something like this: “Johnny, you are old enough now for me to teach you something very important. You see these shapes here? These are letters. And letters can be combined to make words. And words can be combined to make sentences. One day, when you are old enough, you will be able to read the letters and their sentences, and it will be amazing and beautiful! But until then, we don’t talk about it, so it can stay special. There, now, I’m sure glad we had this talk!” And the parent, with a sigh of relief, feels they are now off the hook. Johnny, for his part, is confused by both the information, and his parent’s obvious feelings of awkwardness about it. Johnny is probably just as relieved as his parent that it is over, and he is not likely to brave such discomfort again, even if he has pressing questions.

    But if, instead, we talk to our children from the time they are young, exposing them to developmentally appropriate topics about their bodies and healthy physical affection, boundaries, respect and wonder for our amazing bodies, they will learn “line upon line, precept upon precept,” and will be able to recognize and create healthy physical and emotional intimacy with their partners when they are grown. They will be much more likely to enjoy and beautiful gift of sexuality that God has given.

    Laura Brotherson, an LDS sex therapist, has a lot of helpful information on this topic. Her two books, “And They Were Not Ashamed,” and “Knowing Her Intimately,” are great guides for individuals and couples who want to reconcile some of these unfortunately twisted cultural messages.i am also happy to consult with anyone who is struggling in this area, and can be contacted at http://www.MarriagesWorthMillions.com

  13. Nancy says:

    It is FAR too easy to call this a “church” problem, but it is not. The church is just one of the many places where this is a problem, but it is no different elsewhere. Just keep that in mind, that we need to not only strengthen our own sons and daughters with the gospel, but just push for better sex research, sex education, and sexual equality in general.

    Ask your gyno – most of them say sex has to hurt women at first, be it at the BYU health center or in Sodom and Gomorrah, and they are all wrong. Heck, my gyno said my husband should rape me, and no, she sure as heck wasn’t Mormon (yes, definitely took legal action against her, don’t panic). Everywhere, the SAME assumptions that women as matriarchs have very little control over their bodies and are second-class biological organisms is no different. Ask any high school girl or pretty much anybody on the street – word is they will tell you sex has to hurt most women at first, and that if you don’t just do it, he will just leave you. That is no different outside the church, just that inside the church, we have a law of chastity that has the *potential* to protect women from the “he’ll leave you if you don’t have sex” problem if we do it right.

    Let’s use what God’s given us and do it right.

    • Ziff says:

      I’m so sorry that your gynecologist gave such horrifying advice, Nancy.

      I agree with you that this failure to be concerned with women’s sexual experience isn’t a uniquely Mormon problem. Lots of religions and cultures are patriarchal and unconcerned with how women experience sex. But I think it’s wrong to say that it is no different anywhere else. Certainly religions and cultures vary in how patriarchal they are. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be on the better side for once, in taking women’s experience seriously?

      I also don’t think the law of chastity is always that helpful to women. As it’s talked about in the Church, where women are seen as the sexual gatekeepers and men the sexual aggressors, this is just one more way that women’s own interest in sex is denied, not to mention that as the gatekeepers, they’re blamed more when people break down and have premarital sex.

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