….Do You Masturbate?
What kind of a sick and twisted birthday question is that for a 12 year old kid?
What kind…you ask? Why it’s the birthday present that is given to our children every year in the only true and living church. The Mormon church. My church. And I’m ashamed of it.
We don’t stop there. Half birthdays are also celebrated with the very same gift.
Happy birthday! It’s that wonderful time again. Time to be isolated in a small room, alone, except for an older man, behind closed doors.
Happy, birthday! Do you masturbate?
Happy, happy birthday!! Oh, you don’t know what that means? Let me explain.
Happy, happy, happy birthday!!! Do you touch yourself down there?
Happy, happy, happy, happy birthday! Oh, where’s down there? I mean down there, right between your legs.
So…You Don’t Believe This is Happening to Our Kids?
The church has changed in many ways since I grew up. As a youth, never once was I asked about masturbation by a bishop, stake president, or their counselors. Never once during my 5 years as bishop did I ask any kids or adults if they engaged in masturbation
Two months ago, I asked one of my youngest daughters if this question had ever been asked during her youth interviews. “All the time.” Crap! I had no idea.
Last year, a good friend of the family sat in on her 12 year old daughter’s youth interview. She had given instructions to the bishop that no interview should be conducted alone with her child. And…that masturbation was not to be discussed. The meeting went fine until…”When you view media, do you touch yourself down there?” Mom terminated the interview. Her little girl was left confused about the question.
Last year I asked my local ward and stake leaders if they queried kids about masturbation. I couldn’t get a straight answer.
Real Life Happy-Birthday-Interview Stories
Listen and see if you want your children to have these experiences. Read and see if you are proud of our LDS masturbation meetings.
Our interview practices do damage to both boys and girls. I’m not an expert, but after discussing with lot’s of folks, I’d say the harm is actually more severe with our daughters.
I was kind of surprised and extremely self conscious. Masturbation was never really emphasized with girls. Somehow it never occurred to me that I wasn’t supposed to do it until this old dude, I barely knew, asked me about it at my birthday interview. So, of course, I lied.
I still remember being as young as 10 and being challenged by a bishop about masturbation. I believe, till this day, that those conversations are borderline sexual assault. What bothers me most is a bishop, unsolicited, would go on to explain masturbation to me.
I was asked about it as I graduated from primary. He asked about girls, etc. I had no experience and remember being confused at the questions. After that, I avoided interviews like the plague.
I lived in a very conservative Mormon bubble. When I was 16, my bishop, who just so happened to be my uncle, called me in for an interview. I was dating a boy from another ward and I think he wanted to make sure we were keeping things rated PG. He asked me straight out about masturbation. I was so naive at the time that I thought only boys could masturbate. I did’t know girls could. When he questioned me about it, I was mortified! Did he think I knew about my boyfriend’s private time? He laughed. He actually laughed and said I should stop pretending that I hadn’t touched my self “down there.” Again, I really did not know I could! I didn’t know how or where or anything about it! He didn’t believe me, kept pushing for information and started getting graphic!!! So, I cried. I think he realized I was being honest and stopped the conversation abruptly. He didn’t apologize for anything and told me to not go exploring on myself. I never told my parents this, since my dad was the stake president and was never home. This man was my uncle and would be over at my house with his family every Sunday for dinner and our families would vacation together. I refused to accept any more interviews with him. Crazy stuff, huh. (Sam: Nope, it’s not crazy stuff. It’s sick and twisted stuff.)
My oldest daughter is about to turn 12 and the last thing I want is to have her mind filled with shame and guilt and go through “worthiness” interviews like mine.
When I was 12, I was pulled into the Bishop’s office during mutual and asked all kinds of sexual questions, very detailed questions. He also asked me about all my beehive friends, and if I knew if they were doing anything immoral. I later found out that there was a rumor that the beehive class was sexually active, and he was going to find out the truth. I am still traumatized from that experience. If only I could go back in time.
I should also add that he cried the entire time he was asking me those questions. Imagine a grown man with tears streaming down his face, asking a 12 year old girl if she’s ever touched a penis. It’s actually pretty comical thinking about it. (Sam: It’s inexcusable, tragic, super dangerous and should never be allowed to happen!!!)
I was asked by my stake president when I was in 8th grade and doing baptisms for the dead with my cousins. It was a small Mormon town. He was also my 8th grade history & English teacher, and principal of my intermediate school. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I knew enough to be mortified. An older, more worldly cousin warned me to say “no” to anything he asked. Overall, it was a traumatic experience. I couldn’t bear to look him in the eye or even answer a question in class after that.
Never remember being asked about it. I was always the one who brought it up. My Bishop, when I was like 16, said, “Ummmm, I wouldn’t worry about it. I don’t think it will keep you out of the Celestial Kingdom. I think it was a great attitude. Sadly, I didn’t believe him and went on to torture myself with shame.
My experience with a bishop wasn’t asking about masturbation, but me confessing on my 16th birthday. I waited knowing I would be called I’m for an interview. I was a scared 16 yr old telling a man about masturbation. He requested I not partake of the sacrament.
We got a new bishop a couple Sundays later and I had to talk about it all again with the new bishop, except for this time around, he called me in one Tuesday night and said he talked to the stake president and he needed to know if when I masturbated, I stuck my fingers inside. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself. During my transition I tried to think of anything that happened to me personally, and it came to me… that was none of his business. What does it matter to him? As a 16 yr old, I was trying to be obedient. (Sam: This is so horrid. Why would any parent risk such abusive treatment of their precious child? I am so sorry.)
I was DEFINITELY asked about masturbation. This is a major trauma from my adolescent age. I felt guilty ALL…THE…TIME. Like there was something really wrong with me cause I couldn’t stop the urges. So frustrating to even think about now. Just ridiculous.
Masturbation shame is a reason behind suicides in the church. Mark my words. Nobody talks about it, but it’s true.
Sadly, so many of us have a story to tell. I’ve wondered many times what my teens and 20s would have been like without the heavy burden of guilt and shame I carried thanks to several bishops who may as well have had revolving doors to their offices. Shame on them for their lack of spiritual sensitivity and discernment. I developed an eating disorder in my teens as a way of coping with the pent-up sexual energy in my body. The bingeing/purging ended when my eyes were open to the TRUTH at age thirty. I sure wish someone would have tried to enlighten me sooner. It would have made all the difference for me. Thank you, Sam, for your boldness and courage in bringing attention to these matters. (Sam: Thank you my friend for sharing your story. I was never asked about masturbation as a kid. You should never have been asked either. So sorry about that.)
My stake president asked me, “Are you viewing anything in connection with masturbation? I said, “Well, we have cable television.” Then he told me, “If you do not overcome this, the day will come when you will not be worth a damn…to anyone.” I already felt embarrassment and shame over this. I kind of suppressed the horrible feelings from his words. But, this anger is now finally coming out years later. For a certain kind of personality type, a statement like that could drive someone to suicide.
I enjoyed “self love” all throughout my childhood without knowing what I was doing exactly. As a pre-teen, I started to worry that something was wrong with me because in seminary and Sunday School I would hear references to “touching yourself.” But, it was only directed towards the boys, not the girls. I thought maybe something was wrong with my anatomy! They wouldn’t even acknowledge that it was a pleasure girls could feel, all be it wrong and everything.
Then, a few years later in young women’s, a leader addressed the issue and told us that it was a sin you could not repent of unless you confessed to your bishop. I learned that same in seminary. I felt so horrible and for about a year I tried to stop. I finally got the courage to call my bishop. As a 16 year old girl, I drove myself to meet with an older man and talk about my sexuality. So messed up. He handled it well, but the whole situation was terrible. I left feeling like I was the only girl to have ever confessed such a terrible sin. Still to this day, when I see him I feel so much shame and awkwardness.
Of course, I couldn’t keep from doing the deed forever. So, when I dreaded visiting him again, I talked to my mom. She told me I didn’t need to confess next time and it was OK. WHY DID SHE WAIT?!!! She could have saved me from so much guilt and shame..Let alone putting myself in a very dangerous situation.
Now as an adult I’m so grateful I masturbated. It means I knew what an orgasm felt like before getting married. I could expect to feel pleasure from my husband and let him know what I liked! I told all my married friends to figure it out before they got married. Women should be proud of their pleasure and embrace every chance they can get to feel an orgasm. It doesn’t always come easy for us!
When I think back to that experience in high school, I’m angry at a lot of people. Especially my mom. How could she have not been more concerned when she found out that I had met in secret with an older man?! And discussed these things? It’s so backwards. (Sam: I cried when at your question, Why did she wait?)
Mom About Her Son:
My Older son always talks about how much he hated those question. I know a lot of kids feel really shamed by them. I know a lot of adult members have stilted sex lives because sexual pleasure is made to sound so shameful. It’s a travesty.
I was DEFINITELY asked. This is a major part of trauma from my adolescent age. I felt guilty ALL…THE…TIME. Like there was something really wrong with me cause I could stop the urges. So frustrating to even think about now. Just ridiculous.
When I was in my teens, I actually did masturbate. I felt like I was a freak of nature and felt so guilty. So, I went in to “confess.” I was told by my bishop, a PHD educated man, that if I didn’t stop, I’d turn into a lesbian. Keep in mind, this was in the 70’s when it was totally NOT ok to be LGBTQ! The fear and shame affected my hetero sex life and frankly still does. This from a church led by direct revelation? Of course, I was told to read “The Miracle of Forgiveness.”
I think this is an important conversation that the Church needs to be having. When I was in Beehives (1980-ish), the YW saw the video “Morality for Youth.” Then we were all individually interviewed about “necking, petting and masturbation.” Having figured masturbation out a few years earlier, I was shocked to learn that I was sinning. I came clean with the bishop, who may have been more surprised than I was. He gave me a humiliating scolding that I never forgot. I struggle to be good, but would inevitably slip up. However, after that first mortifying confession, I never admitted to it again. I just figured I would cut out the middle man and go straight to God with any necessary repentance. I felt sometimes guilty for not fessing up, which contributed to an overall feeling of unworthiness that followed me for a long, long time. Learning that my children were getting drilled about masturbation in their interviews is one of the several things that finally pushed me away from the Church.
I had a bishop at Ricks College make me sit next to him during an interview as he told me about HIS masturbation problem. Masturbation was not the reason I was there. I was there for getting caught with alcohol. Maybe he was being nice and trying to relate with me.
Other Posts on This Appalling Practice
Behind Closed Doors–Don’t Let It Happen. Click HERE.
I’m Going to Leave Before They Get Their Hands on My Baby Daughter. Click HERE.
45 thoughts on “Happy 12th Birthday! Now, Let Me Ask….”
You are providing a VALUABLE service by shining a bright light on yet another Principle and Practice of the Only True Church that harms and damages Mormons of all ages … not just youth.
The litany of real life experiences as told by actual Mormons recalling their youthful interactions with bishops hits the nail right on the head. Well done!
I will add my own story that made you LOL in person when I shared this with you while riding in your car just 6 weeks ago.
Just a couple of years into my eternal marriage (following my mission and BYU graduation), I was counseled by my bishop to seek therapy from a local mental health professional (LCSW) for help with how to deal with my rage-a-holic wife physically attacking me on a regular basis. I had no idea how to deal with my spouse beating the crap out of me.
DId I mention the therapist was LDS?
I wanted and needed help, so it seemed like a good idea to make a full disclosure of details to the therapist. Like if you want your doctor to help you, describing ALL of your symptoms is best. Right?
Here is the help I received from my LDS therapist:
After hearing my full disclosure, this mental health professional informed me that the reason my wife was beating me up was God’s way of punishing me for my inability to stop masturbating occasionally.
When Sam heard that punch line, he burst out laughing. I am laughing myself right now as I write about it. This happened to me like over 40 years ago. We both enjoyed a good laugh over my absurd, albeit absolutely true story.
I must make sure that you, the blog reader, do not wonder if Sam was being insensitive or disrespectful by laughing with me. My story is so over-the-top ridiculous that laughter was totally appropriate in this case.
It is no laughing matter, however, when Mormons of all ages are shamed and judged unworthy by ecclesiastical authority figures with “Judge in Israel” status. That is not funny at all. It is traumatic, abusive and very damaging. This practice harms people and even kills people.
Now … what is missing from Sam’s excellent post is an acknowledgment that The Brethren’s shaming of members, young and old, for committing NORMAL human sexual behavior is NOT accidental or poor judgment.
This institutionalized shaming and guilt-dumping is not only INTENTIONAL, but it will never be corrected.
Making otherwise innocent people feel ASHAMED and TERRIBLE about themselves for the crime of being a normal human being is a very effective ingredient in the art and science of MIND CONTROL.
The LDS Church is a MIND CONTROL CULT in every sense of the word.
A wise and insightful observer once wrote, “No success can compensate for failure to destroy the self-esteem and sense of well-being of those whose lives and energy you intend consume for your own benefit as a parasite who survives at the expense of your clueless, brainwashed hosts.”
Actually, it was me who just wrote that. Let the reader determine if there is any wisdom or insight in those words. Or not.
Thank you, Sam, for another heartfelt and much-needed post. You are actually helping struggling people who are ignored, if not harmed, by those they look up to. You go far beyond the extra mile to help others … because you truly love, appreciate and empathize with your fellow man, woman, boy and girl.
Sam Young is a Pearl of Great Price and a Truly Beautiful Man. To know him is to love him, as he loves others so beautifully and unconditionally.
That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.
First, let me acknowledge your long comment about ME on my last blog post. I haven’t quite figured out how to respond….except to say thank you. But, I will be responding.
Now, regarding my belly laugh at the professional recommendation from your therapist. You story was very touching. Heavy. Tragic. Shocking. Intense. My soul was hurting for you, but in rapt attention. Then your LDS therapist made his idiotic pronouncement. Absurd and farcical, It brought to the surface some needed comic relief. But, in actuality, it was not comical at all. Rather, it was ridiculous with only the unintentional potential to harm his patient.
All my best, Sam
I’m shocked. I was never asked anything along these lines as a youth. I don’t for the life of me see how any bishop or church leader could think that this behavior is acceptable.
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I started to understand how universal and, well, NORMAL masturbation is once when we were talking with my father-in-law. He said that, as a young man,he was riding with his dad in the car. They drove by a house that was on fire. His father said to hm, “Son, do you know why that house is on fire? Because someone who lives there MASTURBATES.” Dad said, “All I could think of was, “I’m gonna BUUURRRRNN!!”
I have stopped believing we (and definitely the Church) need to control every facet of people’s lives. This is one such area. A few years ago, Natasha Helfer-Parker (excellent LDS therapist who specializes in sexual therapy) came out for masturbation as a way for people (especially young people) to satisfy sexual urges without breaking the law of chastity. She pointed out that, to her, it is a tool an understanding God gives us to protect ourselves from temptation. That made so much sense to me. I started “touching myself” as a young girl, and I would say it helped me during my teen and young adult years to resist temptation to seek pleasure with a boy. It also gave me the ability to understand my body and my own sexual response and know how to reach orgasm. I think it helped me to have a healthy, and very pragmatic, attitude about sex, and this has led to an ability to impart healthy attitudes to my kids.
Thank you for shining a light on this very dark practice, Sam! I used to DREAD my birthday because i knew the interview, with all its embarrassing sexual questions, would fall hard on its heels. I saw what an overzealous bishop did to my oldest son and am embarrassed that I didn’t raise holy hell with the man. It really did not penetrate my psyche what a sick practice this is. At least my younger kids can benefit from my “enlightenment”.
This is long, because I’ve never told my full story to anyone. I masturbated all through my childhood. I didn’t have any concept of sexuality other than knowing it felt good.
When I was 12 attending my first Standards Night, I remember hearing about masturbation, not know what it was, but worrying that it might have to do with me. I kept it a secret and was determined to conquer it by myself. At some point in high school I found my older brother’s stash of Swimsuit Issues while he was on a mission, which I quickly internalized as being pornographic.
As I approached dating and my 16th birthday, I was desperate not to have to lie. I was able to reduce the frequency of masturbation and burned all the SI magazines. I confessed to a counselor in the Bishopric who told me to not take the Sacrament for 1 week. I felt relief. Early in my 16th years, I went cold turkey.
Though I had a girlfriend for half a year in high school, we kept things clean and somehow I would cool off at night before falling asleep without touching myself (mostly, through an act of sheer will). Though I loved her and we talked about marriage, when I sensed that my passions would continue to grow with no potential outlet, I broke up with her. I still feel terrible about the way I dumped her without really explaining. She was so confused, but married someone else in the temple after her freshman year at Ricks.
Though not perfect, somehow I managed to stop masturbating and looking at erotic material from 16 until 25 or so (with an occasional confession for briefly looking at bra ads or swimsuits). Prior to my mission on the way to the MTC, my father, who was a Seventy, started a Father’s Interview, which he had conducted every few years. Though typically uncomfortable, this one was extremely graphic, in the name of making sure I’m completely clean before my mission. By the time he asked if I had ever put my hands between a woman’s legs and touched her vagina, I exclaimed, “Stop! You’re talking about things I haven’t ever thought about doing!!!” He finally stopped. I was pretty much asexual on my mission. I only masturbated 1 time a few weeks before marriage at 23, which I confessed with a holy determination to delay my wedding if needed so I could be worthy of a temple sealing. We were both virgins.
Initially, our sexual desire was close enough aligned that I was completely satisfied. After the honeymoon phase, her interest moderated. When mine didn’t she offered to satisfy me in other ways, mostly through affection-less dry humping. Her interest continued to wane while mine didn’t and my sexual frustration grew. I did not like the way dry humped seemed like a chore to her. At some point I began looking at Swimsuit Issues again and other erotic material, though rarely pornographic (nudity, genitalia, but never intercourse), and never masturbating.
Bit by bit the tension grew as did my guilt. I talked to my bishop, and determined not to sugar coat anything, I described my problem as pornography though it was 95% swimsuits and 5% hand bras. He wrote me a temple recommend, but said I should disclose to the member of the stake presidency. When I did so, the SP counselor said we should nip the problem in the bud and he took my recommend for 6 months. He said I should tell my wife that I need to clean a few things up and assured me she would be loving and understand. My wife went ballistic, demanded that I disclose everything, and for a time I thought my marriage was in jeopardy. The whole trauma to my marriage made me determined never to disclose anything of the sort ever again to a Priesthood leader or to my wife. It did nothing to decrease my inclination to occasionally look at erotic material, though I got a recommend 6 months later.
Around our 12th year of sexual frustration, which my wife could sense and was not good for our otherwise healthy relationship, I decided that I would explode if I didn’t have my own outlet. I did a ton of research on human masturbation in scientific journals, relationship articles, psychology, wikipedia, and lds.org. Aside from finding out how normal and healthy (?) it is and how it can help a long term relationship when sexual desire is misaligned… I also found out that the word “masturbation” has not been printed in any lds publication since circa 2000. Yes, there are references to never stimulating sexual feelings inside of yourself, but the word has completely vanished. I figured that if the LDS Church can’t say it, then like face cards and coke, it’s simply not that important as it used to be. I remember the relief I felt the first time I masturbated in more than a decade and how I was able to go wash the dishes and help put my kids to bed without a sexual agenda or an undertone of resentment.
Huzzah! Our sexual desires are back in sync. When she wants to make love, I’m ready. And when she doesn’t, I can satisfy of my urge and don’t have to pressure her. I won’t over simplify and say masturbation fixed everything, but it did fix 1 thing.
I just wish I had figured this out sooner, as I imagine I would be less interested in visual erotica. Also, I could have avoided the type of objectification that would occur when my frustration led to her manually satisfying my needs without affection, which I resented, and she could feel. We still have an inability to talk frankly and openly about our sexuality. And I still think the whole temple recommend episode has permanently damaged our trust. She has little understanding of or sympathy for male sexuality. She has no idea about how bishop interviews could be problematic.
She was molested by her grandfather when she was little until her parents found out and forbid grandpa from being alone with the kids. I’m pretty sure she has never masturbated. Ever. She easily orgasms, but not strongly, and doesn’t seem interested in increasing her orgasms or trying new things. She’s quick to cover up after a shower or when changing. I wonder if the Church damaged her libido. And in fairness, I wonder if the Church stunted my sexual maturity.
Heaven knows there is no where to go in this Church for answers to sexual problems in marriage. Thankfully, ours are relatively minor. To put it in context, I turn into Mr. Hype w/o at least 2 orgasms in a week, consistent since our wedding day. She can usually be enticed to have sex 2-3 times per month with reasonable persuasion, though I bet she would average less than 1x per month if left to her own desires. I don’t even have any way of gauging how normal that is.
There is much more I could tell, including my faith transition, though I continue in activity and my wife grows increasingly TBM in response to my attempts to explain historical problems to her. But this is more than I have ever told anyone. My appreciation to anyone who reads this far. I welcome your experience, knowledge, and wisdom.
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Tonight you have honored me by sharing your tender story. Thank you my friend. Based on what I’ve heard over the past several months, many of the elements of your story are all too common.
I don’t know how much of my blog you have followed. You may not know that I don’t believe that masturbation is a sin, neither for children or adults. I only came to that conclusion a couple of years ago.
Thanks for sharing your intimate history. It will help others who read it. Hopefully, writing it was helpful and healing for you.
All my very best wishes to you, Sam
I’ve just discovered your blog and am so grateful. My husband and I have been discussing all of these issues for years as our young children are creeping towards the “interview” age. We have already sat in with the bishop during our two sons baptism interviews. Thankfully he’s a close family friend and was totally okay with our request. And we will never let our child go alone into a room with a leader for any type of interview. During my university years getting an education degree one of the things they stressed the most to us was never to be alone with a student..ever. I feel this is one of the most overlooked aspects of the church culture that I hope changes soon. My husband and I both spent our teenage years in and out of a couple bishops offices and Looking back we both agree that the majority of them totally crossed a line of inappropriateness during interviews. It doesn’t sit well with us now and we will do everything in our will power to not let this happen to our kids. We’ve told them no adult including in the church is allowed to have you alone in a room with them, not for interviews or anything. We love the gospel and it’s doctrine so much but we hope these cultural kinks will consider to sort themselves out as time goes on. But again, thank you for not letting us feel alone in our thoughts and desires for our kids!
I’ll bite my tongue . . .
How is this any different than grade school and middle school teaching kids about graphic sex concepts? We’ve all heard the crazy stories and some make the news:
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