This is my story of Mormon sexual repression, or in other words, how I squandered my intelligence for a decade of self-loathing. Forgive the healthy dose of sarcasm; it’s been a long time coming.
I joined the Mormon church as a teenager. One of my earliest experiences in the church was confessing to the bishop that I couldn’t stop masturbating and looking at porn, including the evil of all evils – girl/girl porn. (Can we all just take a moment to acknowledge the fact that my bishop was in no way trained for this conversation? He was a grown man – closer to three times my age than double – a layperson with zero background in counseling or training in ministry.)
My punishment for being a sexual being was not partaking of the sacrament. The bishop also had my burgeoning bisexual self meet with his wife privately each week to discuss my journey to chastity.
The alternative was sending me to Mormon sex addict anonymous (not the actual name) which met weekly at the stake center. Not surprisingly, it was a happening place – but the bishop didn’t seem to think it was a great venue for a hypersexual young woman.
But was meeting with his wife weekly to discuss my very intimate masturbation and porn habits – alone – really any better? I’ve often wondered why he didn’t choose to have me meet with my own young women’s president or relief society president and if any of our conversations made it back to him. And although nothing untoward happened in these meetings (other than the fact that they were occurring in the first place), I have blocked them out because the conversations were so mortifying.
I wasn’t even kissing my good Mormon boyfriend, but the road to self mastery was never truly completed – though after several weeks of chastity I was allowed to start partaking of the sacrament again. In case you’re wondering, no, God didn’t actually cure me of being a sexual being – despite my prayers for him to just take my sex drive away.
I eventually relapsed to my sinful human ways again and again (hating myself every moment), but I never went back to that bishop or any other about it. Instead, like so many members of the church, I repented privately and torturously – never feeling adequate even when I managed to live up to the inhuman standard.
It pains me to read the journal entries full of Mormon sexual repression.
I discovered the wonders and pleasures of my own blossoming body at 10 – before anyone had the mind to tell me that they were bad. So I felt a bit like God had cursed me from the start, and my journal entries question why he would make something that feels so natural and beautiful a sin – and how I could possibly keep my children from falling into the same trap I did. What a strange obsession to have, but their very souls depended on it! The fact that masturbation and porn stood right next to murder and adultery on the list of sins required it.
These posts where I anguish it out are actually quite rare despite volumes of journals. Countless entries across a decade are sugar-coated or actually encoded to hide my shame and guilt. I can still feel the pregnant pauses where I thought better of what to write – not wanting my future children or anyone who might read what I wrote to know what an awful sex-addicted sinner I was. When I typed up my old journals after marrying my TBM ex, I left out the entire section about meeting with the bishop. I disappeared it like all the other negative things I didn’t want to see about the church.
But it isn’t just sex that gets repressed when you’re a blossoming girl in the Mormon church.
Mormon sexual repression fuels self-martyrdom of intelligent women.
This same bishop’s wife was called to teach my Sunday school class. I remember the lesson where she talked about her brilliant sister’s righteous decision to forego her doctorate degree in order to be a stay-at-home mom. She talked about how her nieces and nephews looked through catalogs at Christmastime and picked out all the things they would be able to get if Mom had worked rather than staying home with them. I remember how strongly that lesson influenced me. I wanted to be a good Mormon mom more than anything else in the world, and in that story (and a thousand other messages, both overt and covert), I learned that the best way to do so was to fuck my education and stay at home with my kids.
Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a woman choosing motherhood over her career. But I can’t help looking back at me sitting in that class – hating myself for being a masturbating sinner, terrified that I wouldn’t be able to protect my children from my same fate – and being counseled at the very beginning of my adulthood to hide my talented mind from the world in order to be a righteous woman and a good mom.
Is it any wonder that I passed up a full ride to Harvard to stay close to home and then to transfer to the middle of Zion?
The saddest part to me is the women I leave behind – including that bishop’s wife, who actually was one of the kindest and most supportive in my congregation when everything went down with my ex years later. I don’t blame her for her teachings; I spouted the same bullshit when I was a member. I blame the church and its leaders for creating a toxic environment where members are forced to demonize their own humanity and women are forced to acquiesce to demure standards of femininity.
So if you wonder why I’m full of rage towards the Mormon church (and believe me, I am), know that there is only more fury coming. Here’s why:
The Mormon Church’s doctrines and false community stripped me of my power as a woman. When I was baptized, I believed I was strong enough to maintain a sense of myself in the overwhelming hivemind culture without being brainwashed into a false version of myself. I was wrong. And now I have to tear down the very thing I helped to build up. Because if my testimony uplifted yours, it was borne in falseness. Falseness to myself, falseness to my God, and falseness to my neighbor. I did not realize how brainwashed I was becoming until I finally found my way out. And even then, it took half a decade to recover the pieces of myself I’d buried under religious trauma and self-hatred. But here I am, and I’m finally ready to add my voice to the choir dismantling the patriarchy, lies, and hypocrisy that is the Mormon Church.
Mormon sexual repression breeds addiction and harm.
Though I will certainly be talking about it more in future posts, it’s worth noting here that Mormon sexual repression absolutely breeds sexual harm. I didn’t have the courage to leave the Mormon church until three sex CRIME scandals shook our small congregation in one year – including the one with my ex-husband. That’s when I finally realized the real reasons consent issues and sex addiction are rampant in the Mormon church:
- Demonizing masturbation blurs the line between right and wrong. All sexual sin is made equal, which can lead to justifying actual harm (and often does).
- Shame and guilt, not depravity, feed addiction.
My “addiction” to masturbation and porn miraculously disappeared as soon as I stopped treating it like a moral failing and hating myself for being human. It disappeared in equal measure with my unfounded shame and guilt. I have a healthy relationship with sex, my body, and masturbation now – though it has certainly been hard-fought. And though I’ve stopped living for my future children, if I do end up becoming a mother, I know that leaving the Mormon church was the best thing I could have ever done to protect them.
Are you thinking of leaving the Mormon Church?
Leaving the Mormon church can be terrifying. The church community and support network is vast and comprehensive, but it is ultimately a closed community. And once you remove yourself from it in even the slightest way by becoming less active, your standing will change dramatically. Because it is a closed community and because of the negative teachings about those who become less active or leave the church and the falseness of their happiness, this is a lot more than just not going to church anymore. If you need support, I strongly suggest seeking Ex-mormon groups on social media, but beware… outer darkness hath no fury like an Ex-Mormon scorned.
A Note About Leaving
Technically, I’m still a member because in order to un-Mormon yourself, you have to send in paperwork that is notorized. And frankly… I’m just not going to do a bunch of bullshit for something that doesn’t matter. Plus, I hear if you get to be a loud enough apostate, they excommunicate you – and I think that’d be better for the memoir. If this post doesn’t do it, maybe the next one will.
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