Who would have thunk it?… One of the most common searches that brings people to my blog is some variation on the words “masturbation” and “mormons.” Seriously. It happens almost every day and it is totally unintentional on my part. But I think I know why my blog ends up in those search results.
There’s a page under my “Rants” in the menu above that discusses masturbation from the perspective of an LDS physician. I found it on some former Mormon forum a long time ago and have long since lost the reference to give the credit due. I don’t even know for sure if it’s legit or just made up. It sounds legit though.
I expect that if the following discussion offends or makes folks uncomfortable they wouldn’t have clicked here or made it this far into the post, right? So, I’m not going to tiptoe around the topic…but this won’t be a vulgar description or anything like that, just a point of view.
Since I get so many visitors looking for this, I thought it was time that I add my own two cents on the topic… you’ve got to give the people what they want! And maybe I’ll get more traffic here as a result.
I believe that the current LDS teaching on masturbation is a violation of an individual’s personal boundaries. The LDS position is not scriptural and it’s not moral. It’s damaging to the young LDS boys and young LDS girls on whom the non-doctrinal teaching is imposed. It is abusive.
As a Boy
I was taught about masturbation by my Mormon bishop at the age of 11. He was interviewing me in his home office just prior to my 12th birthday to make sure that I was “worthy” to be ordained as a deacon in the church. Up to that point I’d never heard the word before and I’d never done it. So, when the bishop asked me if I masturbated and I replied that I didn’t know what that was, a VERY uncomfortable conversation ensued.
The bishop in essence taught me how to masturbate; that wasn’t his intention but that was the outcome.
At the time I was completely at the mercy of this HUGE authority figure in my life. Of course I didn’t question the appropriateness of this conversation because this was the Lord’s representative and could do no wrong. And within the context of Mormonism it was an entirely appropriate event.
That’s messed up.
As a father I find it completely inappropriate for an older man to even be asking a 12 year old boy about masturbation. Period. The Mormon church seems to be begging for a lawsuit by keeping this practice in place.
As a Dad
25 years later and my little girl, a toddler, was really enjoying her child car seat. That strap with the latch that goes between her legs was getting a lot of attention while the family drove around town. This really irritated my ex-wife. She freaked out every time she saw it. I was still a true blue believer at this point but I tried to get my ex-wife to calm down and stop bugging our little girl about it. Finally our pediatrician came to our rescue and told my wife that toddler masturbation was completely normal and that her freaking out about it was going to cause more damage than the act itself.
The overreacting stopped…in front of me at least. Funny thing is, though, the masturbating in the car also stopped soon after. I don’t know if it was a naturally tapering off, or if my ex-wife somehow managed to get my daughter to stop it covertly. I’m guessing the latter.
I don’t know if we need a definition here, but I’m assuming that we can all agree what masturbation is…or can we? Is the line really that clear? A Mormon female I was once close to told me that a certain exercise routine would “accidentally” induce orgasm for her as a teen. Well then, if you repeat that very same exercise technique… and know that the pleasure is going to follow, that’s masturbation, right? (And then I’d also assume that you’d be more understanding of your own children when similar events occur years later, ahem.)
For a boy that sort of hands-off approach doesn’t work as well, but I know from experience that a young 14, 15, 16 year old boy doesn’t need a whole lot manual help to make it happen either. Just washing in the shower, for example can get results. But that only highlights how normal and natural it is.
In the Mormon world “morality” refers almost exclusively to sex. If you follow the LDS code for sexual behavior then you are living a “moral” life. My definition of morality is more comprehensive. In brief, my moral compass guides me to evaluate my life situations based on respect and “doing no harm to others”, or the old “treat others the way you want to be treated.” In no way does masturbation do harm to yourself or to anyone else. To the contrary, obsessing over it the way the Mormon religion does brings it to the forefront of a young person’s life and creates a guilt and a compulsion that is harmful and immoral.
If you are a young boy or girl reading this post, or perhaps you are a young adult preoccupied with “sinful” thoughts that do or could lead to masturbation, or maybe you are just a concerned LDS parent trying to help your “addicted” child, please know that the LDS church is wrong on this one issue.
My father once related to me the adage, “95% of boys masturbate… and the other 5% are liars.” Unfortunately it was a dozen years too late to help me much. I actually managed to not masturbate from my 2 year LDS mission and all the way through my 10 year marriage. With a couple of slip ups in between, which I felt incredibly guilty and worthless about, I spent an unnecessary enormous amounts of energy on the Mormon obsession over masturbation. I’m no longer proud of abstaining. It’s like patting yourself of the back for a long run of not brushing your teeth.
Like anything, too much of a good thing can become obsessive. So, if it interferes with the person’s ability to have intimate relationships, function productively in life, or if there are inappropriate times and places where it occurs then it can become an immoral behavior because of how it affects others. But in and of itself there is nothing immoral or wrong about it. And those negative outcomes are anomalies of the behavior not givens or consequences.
Trying to NOT do something normal and natural creates an obsession that is unhealthy. Mormons think about masturbation far more than the rest of the world who just do it and get on with their lives.
Other things I’ve posted on the topic: