The Other M-word
In countless posts about single women in the church, bloggers emphasize the point that these women need something in addition to promises of marriage in the next life. Living a celibate life can be difficult and sometimes depressing. Many of my friends, sisters, and cousins are single and in their late 20s or early 30s struggling without a mate and without sex. As a woman who married young, I try to listen and sympathize, but I really don’t know how difficult it is for these women to remain morally pure and maintain hope for marriage. Some wait to have sex and some don’t, but I try to support them equally.
However, I don’t know that it’s realistic to think that this is the best for everyone, especially women who marry later. There seem to be many reasons for women to save sex until marriage: emotional costs, risks of STDs, HIV, and unplanned pregnancies. But, some women see the benefits of sexual fulfillment outweighing the potential costs.
So I’m wondering if single women who are torn between celibacy and premarital sex are masturbating? Maybe it’s a good idea. For the last few weeks, I’ve been pondering the risks, benefits, and doctrinal issues associated with this practice. Maybe I’m crazy and all of you single women out there are already participating in this individual pleasure, or perhaps you would never even try, but hear me out.
I got started thinking about it from a thread at the Visitor’s Center (funny, from a guy’s perspective) and a link to a very thorough research paper/post by Momonzero (he has 15+ links at the bottom of his post). He argues that the history of how masturbation has been treated by the church has varied widely, and it more complex than most realize.
I also heard a rumor that the church may be changing its attitude toward masturbation as a sin, although the For Strength of Youth still cautions about awakening desires in oneself. For many years, the medical community has seen it as a normal practice, and perhaps the church is heading that direction. While I know of some wards (including mine) that do still ask YM and YW about masturbating during recommend interviews, apparently the CHI is silent on the subject. This father has instructed his sons, if ever asked about the topic, to answer, “It’s not an appropriate topic between a non-parent adult and a minor” or leave the interview. I would suggest that it’s probably not an appropriate topic between a single woman and her married bishop, either.
So perhaps some of the sexual tension surrounding singleness would be avoided if masturbation was accepted as a healthy part of a person’s sexuality.
Maybe some people would say it could increase porn use, or become addictive as with other kinds of pleasure (like eating, for example), which I’m sure is possible. However, the potential for abuse must be weighed against the potential for benefits, and I’m beginning to fall on the side of benefits.
One source even goes so far as to claim that the LDS teachings are damaging youth and causing them emotional and spiritual harm, especially the YM who are given the “For Young Men Only” pamphlet. As the mother of 3 boys, I’m really glad to hear this side of the coin and hope to help my sons understand that their sexuality is good and important, not dirty and burdensome.
According to Mormonzero, here are some of the benefits to female masturbation. (Here’s his source)
“Women who masturbate have higher self-esteem than those who don’t.” (Although, this relationship is probably a correlation, not necessarily a causation.)
Some of the known health benefits of masturbation are,
* Reduces stress
* Enhances self-esteem.
* Muscle relaxation
* Helps one to fall asleep
* Promotes release of the brain’s opioid-like neurotransmitters (endorphins), which cause feelings of physical and mental wellbeing.
* Female masturbation relieves menstrual cramps
* Eases some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
* Relieves depression
* Improves blood flow in the human body.
* Frequent masturbation by males appears to help prevent the development of prostate cancer.
* An effective, natural cure for insomnia.
* Burns calories during the session.
* It lowers blood pleasure and relieves headaches and muscle aches throughout the body
* Masturbation is also seen as a sexual technique that protects individuals from the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.
* Research states that through masturbation, ones sexual tension is released. Masturbation allows a person to express sexuality in various situations, for instance, if they don’t have a partner or if sex with their partner isn’t available, or if they want to (or have to) abstain from sex for any reason.
* Masturbation helps to communicate their sexual needs better to their sexual partner. With enough practice, one will be able to coordinate pleasure with their partner’s pleasure and make sex better for both of them
* Masturbation is a popular treatment for sexual dysfunction. For Instance, men who suffer from premature ejaculation can use masturbation to practice control.”
Here‘s a thread on Beliefnet where Mormon women discuss this topic.
So what do you think? Is masturbation a reasonable way to handle being single and LDS? Is there more to the issue than I’ve considered?
PS. For a funny take on this subject, watch this episode of Mr. Diety.
Special thanks to Mormonzero for his help with resources.