214-216: LDS Female Sexuality with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

In this episode, Natasha Helfer Parker interviews Dr. Jennifer Finlayson- Fife, a psychotherapist on issues surrounding female sexuality and feminism within the LDS framework. Dr. Fife holds a Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from Boston College where she wrote her dissertation on LDS women and sexuality. She has taught college level classes on human sexuality and currently has a private therapy
practice in Chicago. She is an active member of the LDS church. You can find more information regarding her practice, internet courses and therapy approach at finlayson-fife.com and drjenniferfife.blogspot.com. Her dissertation is available for
purchase.

Comments

comments

93 comments for “214-216: LDS Female Sexuality with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

  1. zionssuburb
    December 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Currently listening to episode 1, mentioned during the interview was that virtue, and being virtuous, isn’t part of a man’s upbringing in the church. I would disagree with that, a major D&C scripture dealing with priesthood righteousness deals with this issue. I hear this mentioned over and over in meetings. D&C 121:45 http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/121.45?lang=eng#45

  2. December 2, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Just to clarify: it’s not that men aren’t told to be virtuous. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to have the link as strongly to sexuality as it does for women – rather righteousness in general.

    • Anonymous
      March 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      I’m a male in the Church, and I think this comment by Natasha was taken a bit out of context. Zionssuburb is right, men are taught to be virtuous in the Church, but the connotation is that this “virtue” is more related to priesthood leadership (i.e., patriarchal leadership in the family or leadership in the church). “Virtue,” as defined for LDS women, is more directly related (if not solely related) to sexuality. P.S. I really enjoyed the podcasts. Thanks to Natasha and Dr. Finlayson-Fife.

    • Ronyl_benigay
      January 3, 2012 at 7:37 pm

      what the meaning of mormon?

      • Jsharvey1961
        May 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm

         A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  3. Clarissa
    December 2, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    This was SUCH a great interview. I grew up LDS and remained a virgin until my marriage at age 28, and had SO many hang-ups (without releasing it – I thought I was fine and open). I wish I could have heard something like this and started exploring these ideas ten years ago. Thank you! Please topics like these coming!

  4. Clarissa
    December 2, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I meant realizing (not releasing). Maybe a freudian slip? 🙂

  5. December 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you so much for this interview. It was awesome.

    I have been trying to figure out how have a good sex life with my wife of nearly 19 years since day one. Some things work well for us— others have been issues from the beginning. I think sex in marriage is hard to begin with but the LDS teachings my wife and I grew up with definitely adds to the degree of difficulty. I think you’re right that they have less effect on the sexual autonomy of LDS males for many of the reasons you listed (teachings, sex drive etc).

    You’re also right that because of pressure in the faith many times people do not fully express their sexuality to spouse for fear of losing their respect… or worse. As a LDS (disaffected) male I find a serious gap between what LDS men and women learn at Church regarding sex and what I hear the active LDS men at my work discussing amongst themselves. I know that they do not feel comfortable expressing these ideas to their wives— which is too bad.

    I also really appreciated you discussing the simple idea that sexuality is not dirty or bad but instead that it is a wonderful thing that can help create a strong bond between individuals. I personally get so tired of hearing LDS leaders talk about being ‘morally clean’ or maintaining purity because it makes sex appear dirty. The licked cupcake/gum examples do that as well. Sure, sex is best in a committed and safe relationship and when individuals are mature adults but why do we need to make it dirty or impure to teach that? I don’t think so.

    I do have to say though that I have always resisted calling sex sacred because I think for some people— perhaps some women— that makes the idea of arousal and perhaps even letting go seem incompatible. Sacredness in Mormonism (to me) implies quietness, sedateness and total control which I think are counter-productive to an uninhibited sex life. Just my take on it.

    Lastly, as the father of daughter I worry that all of the things they are being taught in YM etc will have negative effects on their marriage and sex life in year to come. Obviously the best thing I can do counter that influence would be to have the best marriage and sex life with my wife that I can. But what else does one do? As I mentioned I am no longer active in the Church and because of this my wife assumes that if I teach anything counter to what is taught in Church, that I am a bad influence. Not to mention, my teen age daughters would rather die then discuss sex with their dad. =)

    First I think I will see if my wife will listen to this podcast. It was very helpful. Thanks again.

  6. Todd Hadden
    December 3, 2010 at 10:04 am

    On itunes part one and two are the same.

  7. Skipper
    December 3, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Great interview. It’s so great to have people moving us forward in positive directions. Because I was raised out of the church by a strong-minded mother, I desperately want my daughter not to lose her sense of equality that my mother taught me to have for women. As a convert, i’m deeply troubled by LDS culture and view of womenhood and especially sex. I appreciate your interview Natasha and Jennifer.

  8. December 3, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Todd,

    I think I’ve fixed the problem. Let me know if it’s better for you now.

  9. Marsco
    December 3, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I am guessing neither of these ladies are converts. I just can’t see women like these joining the Church as adults.

    I don’t understand why a woman would be ok being Mormon with the second class citizenship it offers. And would the Church not be better off if women like this could be Bishops and etc?.

    It mean no offense but it breaks down for me mentally.

    • Apron Appeal
      September 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm

      All of the bishops I’ve met, they are married. If they have a healthy relationship with their wife, her perspective is most definitely present in counseling sessions because she is a part of the man that is the Bishop.

      As far as being second class citizenship, if you are going to allow yourself to be pigeonholed into that identity then that is all you will know. Just because I’m not or cannot be bishop doesn’t mean that my influence has any less importance in the church. We talk about how women are not counted for in counsels and such and we are oppressed by men, but having been in counsel, I see men just as oppressed and unwilling to speak out against a Bishop as women. I think it’s in relationship to the office not the man and both men and women react similarly when the bishop shares his counsel.

  10. Jan
    December 3, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Great interview. I do have a few questions.
    On Dr. Jennifer’s blog, she cites the following under the question “What is acceptable between husband and wife” The answer in part was:

    Some examples of unrighteous behavior include adultery and erotica, using sex coercively or as manipulaton, demanding any offensive or degrading behaviors (even if it’s only offensive to one spouse) , or any physically abusive behaviors. … Behaviors engaged in mutually that enhance the relationship and that are in keeping with the spirit of the relationship, may be considered appropriate.”

    Cited in “And They Were Not Ashamed”, LDS Author Laura M Brotherson, p. 137, pp. 135-136.

    During the interview, the question of erotica vs. pornography came up and was talked about a little. Although her blog has the above statement saying erotica is considered “inappropriate” Dr. Jennifer seemed to cautiously endorse it. Could you please clarify your stance? Also, Natasha seemed much more open to the idea or erotica, but defined it as things like “poems, stories, even music.” Photograpy and drawings were never mentioned. Are these considered unacceptable? If not, which ones ARE acceptable? Only those within the parameters agreed upon by both spouses? And how would you find what is agreeable without looking at some material that is not? Is one spiritually culpable for viewing “pornography” while looking for agreeable “erotica”? This goes back to my theory that one person’s erotica is another’s pornography, and this stuff just can’t be defined.

    A final question regarding fantasies. What is to be done when a spouse goes out on a limb to communicate their fantasies and they are flatly rejected? How does one handle that without resorting to coercion, intentional or not? Again, thanks for a great interview.

  11. rufus
    December 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Natasha, what a great interview!

    I’ve been married a lot longer than the earlier responder who has been married 19 years and have spent the past, say 15 years trying to figure out what the deal is with women and sex. At first I had to deal with being told what I thought was wrong with our sex life was that I was “oversexed”. I was then wrong for being obsessed with sex. Finally, there is no problem period. All the while, you look for the calvary (from church leaders) to come to the rescue, instead we get hit over the head with don’t look at porn. Dr. Laura described the situation as good as anyone, if you don’t get intimacy from his wife, a husband is going to have an affair with another woman, masturbate to porn or divorce. I’d add that In the church we can add that the guy is in some dark, dreary world of suffering in silence.

    At least your generation has come on stream there’s a healthy view of marital relations. I envy you and am happy for the work you are doing.

    I don’t get the radical feminist stuff, and don’t think of any woman is subservient to men, however I do see how it can be translated to mean that. I think of all of us getting direction for life from priesthood leaders.

  12. TJE
    December 3, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Still can only get parts 1 and 3 on iTunes. Part two is a duplicate of part 1. I’ve refreshed, still shows up the same.

  13. TJE
    December 3, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    never mind, got it by going into the store and downloading that way. from the subscribed list, still shows up twice.

  14. Gail K
    December 4, 2010 at 12:12 am

    I really enjoyed all three segments. I was very disappointed to get to the end of all three and still not hear one word about the fact that women who have been taught that birth control is “wrong” will have a GREATLY lowered desire to even have desire for sex. I was interested in enjoying my own body from the age of 12 or 13. I really enjoyed my husbands body. Obviously a bit too much as I have 11 children to show for it. I was tired, exhausted, and very very much over worked and over worried living in what is American poverty. Many many many times I was NOT interested in sex because I was literally TOO TIRED. I did not make it up because I was nervous about my sexuality. I WAS nervous ESPECIALLY when I was interested in sex that I would become pregnant. I always say that my interest in sex went WAY up once we had permanently made getting pregnant impossible. The truth is that I was ALWAYS interested in sex but did not feel free to enjoy it. Children everywhere. No money to go anywhere to get away, to time when working 2 or 3 jobs.

    My point is that MY WHOLE set of issues were NOT addressed here at all. We went through hell and back, both my husband and I as a result of the teachings of the Prophets.

    I think masturbation would have made a huge difference in my husbands life MUCH earlier than he was willing. He would pout as if I was being mean to him because I was EXHAUSTED. This did NOT motivate him to get a better job so we would have more money to take care of things. What a mess the teachings about birth control and spirit children being sent down to bodies that we are to provide made in my marriage.

    I am still quite angry about all those years lost and the ones I still have to go to raise the last 4 children. I am 51 and my youngest is 8 1/2 yrs old. SEX created all those children and I was supposed to enjoy it!!! HA!

    I now enjoy it AND I do less for my family than I ever did before. I have told my husband that I understand why women sit home and read romance novels. When I have ever had time to read one, I am ALWAYS waiting for my husband to come home so I can attack him. He loves it. I am all for romance novels to raise the interest on my part since I am the lower interest partner. If my husband wants to be with me then he needs to make sure I have time to read romance novels or watch romance movies with him.

    Please address these issues if you would.

  15. Mart
    December 4, 2010 at 3:28 am

    There was a great article on Mormon Times this week by Richard & Linda Eyre , respected members of the church. This is so how we should try and teach about sex.

    http://www.mormontimes.com/article/18606/Think-about-sex-in-a-positive-light

  16. December 4, 2010 at 8:42 am

    In response to “badseed”, I agree that using the word “sacred” in connection with sex can evoke a sense of restraint and inhibition in LDS contexts, just as the word “spiritual” can. I use the words sacred or spiritual to describe the profound level of emotional contact between two individuals that can occur in a developed sexual relationship. These profound sexual experiences are often referred to by people (non-LDS alike) as spiritual (in an effort to describe the temporary loss of boundaries, the feelings of being known and loved deeply, the feelings of transcendence etc). Sometimes we speak in the church of things spiritual and sacred to imply religiosity or compliance rather than spirituality as I understand it.

    With respect to counter-acting any negative messages about sex taught at church or elsewhere, I would recommend the book “How to Talk to Your Child About Sex” by Linda and Richard Eyre. This book is written for the general public, but promotes LDS values in a sex-positive manner. It helps parents know how to talk to kids at all stages in their development. I think it’s a great resource. Thanks for your comments!

  17. December 4, 2010 at 11:26 am

    In response to Gail K.: I’m sorry to hear about the difficulty of your experiences. I wish I had interviewed you for my dissertation. None of my participants had grown up believing that birth-control was not acceptable, but this was a younger and more educated group than the church population at large, and I think you are absolutely right that your experiences represent the experience of many Mormon women. Believing that an unwanted pregnancy may be the result of a sexual encounter can of course deeply undermine one’s desire for sex as can sheer exhaustion. If you would be willing to be interviewed by me at some point so I can include your experiences in a book I plan to write, please contact me at finlayson-fife.com. Thank you for your post.

  18. December 4, 2010 at 11:48 am

    n response to “Jan”. I posted the quote you cited on my blog following a presentation where I was trying to emphasize the endorsement of church leaders that “behaviors engaged in mutually that enhance the relationship…may be considered appropriate” (to expand people’s notions of what is acceptable)(See http://www.drjenniferfife.blogspot.com). I personally believe accessing sources that enhance and evoke sexual desire can be very useful to couples. Stories, images, music, lingerie etc., can encourage sexual desire in powerful ways and can be very enhancing and helpful to couples. That said, I also believe that the use of the same materials can interfere or become a substitute for intimate contact in sex. Oftentimes couples deal with desire problems by introducing outside elements to get their bodies to function sexually, all the while their hearts and heads are a million miles away from the person they are being sexual with. When the use of erotica/pornography or fantasy facilitates interpersonal disengagement or distance, I don’t see much value in it.

    When dealing with desire challenges between couples, I am first and foremost interested in the ways that desire problems express relational immaturity or barriers between them. I look to understand the ways that couples avoid contact with one another (even while being sexual) in an effort to manage anxiety and their sense of self. Helping people take more positive risks with one another, helping them find the strength to be more open to being known by and knowing the other, not only allows profound desire to emerge, but it lays the foundation for being able to decide which specific behaviors or outside supports they include or exclude from their sexual relationship. And that exploration is worthy in my mind.

    In that spirit, finding the courage to genuinely know your spouse means also knowing their erotic minds, which will invariably stretch us. In my thinking, that is precisely the function of marriage—to expand us beyond our comfort zone and help us grow into more flexible, loving and accepting people. Out of fear, we often choose to ignore sexual differences or be critical of them, thereby limiting the amount of intimacy we achieve. If we claim that we want emotional or sexual intimacy with our spouse, we need to dare to know the person we are lying beside—including knowing what turns them on (whether lingerie or help with the dishes), what their fantasies include, and what they desire. This might mean being open to different positions, behaviors, or fantasies. It might mean opening oneself to being seen during sex, making more emotional contact, being more emotionally vulnerable, and/or being more sexually generous, which can be extremely difficult for some of us. Expanding our sexual repertoire will increase our anxiety at first, but in the spirit of love and courage, will also help us expand our souls and the strength of our relationships in the process.

    To your question more specifically, it is difficult to answer these questions without knowing the specifics of your relational dynamic and what realities sit under these specific questions, but in short, when one shares their fantasies and a spouse flatly rejects it, the spouse is trying to manage their own discomfort with your wants. They’re rejecting it because what you are sharing makes them uncomfortable and they’re trying to manage their discomfort. In the face of the rejection, no one should coerce, of course. You will only get resentment if you put pressure on a spouse to conform to your desires. But you can continue to hold the legitimacy of your desire in your heart and invite your spouse to open up to knowing you, particularly if that invitation comes from a place of integrity and clarity of self.

  19. Joel Wright
    December 4, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Just listed to the first two podcasts this morning, and then went to BYU and saw this banner that is remarkably consistent with how we view sexuality in the LDS Church:

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1603728486248&set=a.1437299165619.2059534.1027190981

  20. James Black
    December 5, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I listened to the entire 3 part series. I found them somewhat enjoyable, but there were some things said that I feel like I need to take issue with. Natasha & Dr. Fife, both endorse highly inappropriate methods of stimulation for self use or with your partner. This confuses me. It is plainly clear that pornography is not acceptable in any form. To suggest “erotica” is acceptable is like saying marijuana is an acceptable form of drug use because, “it isn’t all that bad”. The church leaders plainly state that all forms of pornography is bad. So I wonder why both of you feel that pornography, or erotica is acceptable when the church leaders clearly don’t.

    The other issue that I have that is very similar to the first one is how both of you mention throughout the discussion that masturbation is acceptable in certain conditions. This is plainly false. I know from first hand accounts from very high ranking General Authorities that masturbation is unacceptable in all forms. So for either of you to say that masturbation, for yourself, or your partner is acceptable is a direct contradiction from what the church leaders state. I understand that your goal is to reduce sexual problems in a marriage, but is this really the best way to solve these issues? By directly contradicting the church leaders?

    Thanks for your time,
    James

    • Winter
      February 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      I could write a longer reply but honestly, I don’t think masturbation as a problem. Actually, I think it’s very natural. So, as a Mormon, I disagree with General Authorities that it’s totally unacceptable. I think, it can’t get out of control but it is a part of everyone’s life. My very honest opinion…

      • OBEDIENCE BY FAULT
        March 27, 2011 at 9:22 pm

        You disagree with General Authorities…HUH?

        • Jeffrey
          October 25, 2011 at 11:26 pm

          General Authorities whose opinions on sexuality were borne out of a Victorian era of shame, repression and self-hate in which they were raised?

          Yes, I do disagree with them.

          • Tanner Wilkes
            November 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm

            Why do you have to assume that their honest and heartfelt beliefs on Sexuality are nothing more than the “evil” (yes, I dare use that word) results of the Victorian era? Why do you have to accuse them of being nothing more than the result of “social conditioning” designed to “control” them? Why attack them for their long pondered and thought out positions on these matters?

            In case you didn’t realize, the LDS doctrine of Sexuality vastly differs from the actual Victorian era beliefs, derived from long corrupted religious traditions which believed sex was a variety of things ranging from “a necessary evil” to being the outright antithesis of the spiritual.

            For that matter, why should the word “spiritual” in connection with sex turn off a girl? It is the result of these flawed, broader cultural beliefs that the body and spirit are “diametric opposites”, not “complementary elements”.

            The first tenant of the gospel concerning the physical body is that it is a sacred and good thing, a “temple” unto the Lord, which makes it a decidedly anti-Victorian belief. They overvalued the intellectual to no end.

            The second is that the spirit is actually made of matter, purer and more refined than the physical body, but still matter. This brings up the under-emphasized value of the body to that of the spirit, and lowers the overemphasized value of the spirit. They are equally important and good.
            Again, a decidedly anti-Victorian belief.

            Is exerting self control of one’s sexual desires so detestable to the modern world that we are just going to call it “repression”?

            For the uniformed, repression is a psychological condition caused by long term ignoring of past desires, events, or feelings. That is certainly not what controlling your body’s feelings is.
            To exert control, you need to admit that you have these desires in the first place. With repression, you simply hide them entirely and never admit you have them, which is not what these men are saying.

            Is simply admitting guilt to doing wrong, now the mere equivelent of self-hate?
            Repentance and guilt do not require self-hate. Self-hate is a gross overreaction to guilt, and it’s not the right answer.

            Oh, and on the matter of shame while we’re at it.
            Every single society has “shamed” those who it believes has violated some moral boundary, as it is part of how a society functions to incentivize good behavior and punish bad behavior.

            In this case, by accusing the GA of being Victorian, you are acutally attempting to shame them. Claiming that they are as harmful and insensitive as the Victorians were.
            Just like how our modern society’s culture “shames” greedy & rich people, racists, busybodies, and those who believe homosexuality is immoral. Remember how the gay-rights protesters screamed, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” at the LDS temple in Los Angels? It’s the same thing you claim the GA is doing. Therefore, it grants no moral high ground to shame someone for holding a particular belief, especially when they hold it not because they want to shame someone, but because they believe the object involved is sacred.

            So, as you no doubt already figured out, I do vehemently disagree with your opinion.

    • Jeffrey
      October 25, 2011 at 11:24 pm

      You think marijuana is an unacceptable form of drug use? You mean a natural, non-addictive painkiller is unacceptable? What are your opinions on artificial medication which is both legal and highly addictive?

      As far as pornography goes, pornography is not any one thing. What is pornography to you? Most likely, your answer will be very different from someone else’s. Teenage girls went crazy with their fantasies over Edward and Jacob in the Twilight Series, which Deseret Book sold. Deseret Book has also sold romance novels. I would consider both potentially pornographic for women. How is that different from a Hustler? I’m not suggesting any absolute answers, I’m suggesting that one’s perspective will be everything on the matter.

      Masturbation is also natural and healthy. Stifling, repressing or instigating guilt trips over it is incredibly psychologically damaging. Masturbation encourages healthy body images, develops familiarity with the sexual process, is a natural painkiller and sedative, and allows people to understand themselves and their own responses as to what brings them pleasure. In so doing, it allows them to share with their (future or present) partner their intimate and personal sexual responses.

      You need to understand that the vast majority of current Church leaders, and ALL of the Church leaders who have ever mentioned the subject, were born either during or shortly after the Victorian era of American history and are products of it. This was an era that held attitudes on sexuality that were shameful, repressing and completely unhealthy. The attitudes of treating men as though they are uncontrollable animals, and women as asexual Virgin Marys, stem from this period. This was a period that brought back circumcision as a social norm in an attempt to stifle masturbation. It is no wonder that these same Church leaders who are products of this period hold similar views.

      Keep in mind there is not a single documented reference to masturbation prior to this period in Church history. It all has been entirely borne out of this area, which is also why you never hear Church leaders reference it today, unless it is a regurgitation of what has been said before. There is zero doctrinal or scriptural evidence to support its condemnation.

      The most famous talk on the subject was entitled “To Young Men Only” and given by Boyd K. Packer. It was entirely scientifically inaccurate, incredibly harsh and condemning, and, most importantly, is not available in any form on the Church’s website. It is no longer distributed. It is no longer officially referenced or affirmed.

      The bottom line is that Church leaders are men, and will have biases, preconceived notions, opinions and be subject to their upbringing like any other men. On this particular subject, many of them have been wrong, and, unfortunately, through their position have furthered many entirely unhealthy and damaging attitudes on sexuality under the banner of heaven.

      I, for one, do not believe in a God who would create a reproductive process with the inclusion of pleasure as an integral part, and then encourage self-hate and repression in response to it. More than that, I accept the proven evidences of science which stand in support of healthy sexual attitudes, as well as colloquial evidence which supports confidence and security over one’s sexuality above that of repression and shame.

      • Tanner Wilkes
        November 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm

        Marijuana is hardly a “safe” drug. You’re smoking twice as much tar in a joint than you do in a cigarette, and both are derived from plants which use the various chemicals that appeal to men to kill bugs that would try to eat them.

        You are, in essence, smoking herbicide when you smoke joints or cigarettes. That cannot be good for your health, no matter what the short-term benefits are.

        It’s also known for causing problems with the senses, memory, weakening the immune systems, lung problems. So much for it being a harmless pain killer…

  21. December 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    James,

    Can you please share with us from the 2010 church handbook of instructions the church’s current policy on masturbation?

  22. Bill
    December 5, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Why do some people feel the need to have others (“The Handbook…”) give them the OK as to what is appropriate behavior between themselves and their spouse? If you are both OK with it intellectually and spiritually, who cares what the handbook says? We all can receive inspiration from God. Use it! This is the most private and personal relationship in our lives yet we insist on inviting The Bretheren into our bedrooms! Take charge of your lives and stop letting and expecting others to tell you what is OK! It can be very liberating!

  23. December 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Bill,

    I don’t. But I’m speaking with James based on what I assume to be his framework.

  24. vfg
    December 5, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Excellent. Appreciated the clarity & empathy of both women. As my daughter works through her first year of the Young Women’s program, her sexual education is very much on our minds and I will forward this on to my LDS mothers with daughters…and sons… Critical topic. Thanks for both addressing it here & in your careers.

  25. Nate
    December 5, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    I just wanted to say how awesome this podcast was! It really helped me understand some of feminist ideas about patriarchy and how that affects women. But what really stood out to me was learning that one shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid of their god-given (or innate) sexuality or be afraid to share one’s “true” sexual self with their spouse. Thanks again!

    James – I can understand your apprehension in regards to erotica or masterbation within marriage, but I have several family memebers who have held callings of bishop, stake president, etc and the direction they’ve received is that they shouldn’t mandate or direct a married couples sexual relationship, that should be left to professionals. True some of the brethren may have strong feelings of what they consider appropriate (and I am sure some have differing views), but I don’t believe they have officially dictated those for all members of the church. From what I’ve found, they stay out of the bedroom unless it deals with sex addiction or abuse, and then they send those couples to professionals, such as those in this podcast.

  26. vfg
    December 5, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    I want to add that I think I came through the church’s “program” with a healthy view of sexuality. I recognized tonight via one of the speaker’s comments that a big part of that was seeing my parents and extended family demonstrate their physical affection–I knew that very “good” & orthodox Mormon couples enjoyed passion in their marriages & looked forward to that in mine.

  27. Jared
    December 6, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Dear Jennifer and Natasha,

    On behalf of myself and my wife I want to express our deep appreciation for these podcasts. I have been through enough counseling to realize that the information contained in these interviews is literally worth hundreds of dollars of therapy!

    The observation that women are conditioned as caretakers of mens’ sexuality (first chastity then fulfillment) rather than as sexual agents provides such an important revelation! It is one of those issues that is so obvious once pointed out, but insidiously damaging when accepted. The related idea of women taking charge of their sexuality and having “room to want” sexual intimacy rather than simply caring for their husbands’ has such power–already it has shifted how my wife and I see our relationship!

    The ideas in this podcast were so well-articulated and even transformative…. thank you again for taking the time to post this interview! Our relationship is better for having heard it, which I am sure is the case for so many.

  28. Chelsea
    December 6, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Natasha and Jennifer, thank you so much for a wonderful and enlightening discussion. I found myself nodding along the whole time. So much of what I was taught (sometimes explicit, sometimes implied) in the YW program I had to mentally jettison in order to have a healthy relationship with my husband, especially the implication that righteous women don’t want sex, we only do it (mostly grudgingly) because our partner wants to. The fact that masturbation is never mentioned in regard to women adds to this perception and can be so damaging. I really wish the church would lay off the whole masturbation thing, for men and women, but that’s another story. As a YW leader currently I’m doing my best to avoid the types of lessons I received, and this involves pretty much rewriting entire lessons in order to filter out damaging/sexist messages. I want my girls to know that they’re agents of their own sexuality and not just the gatekeeper for someone else’s! And I have to do so in a way that doesn’t scandalize the other leaders. 🙂 It’s a challenge but I hope I’m doing the right thing.

    Thanks again for a great podcast!

    Thanks

  29. incognito
    December 6, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Very confused at James Black’s comment regarding erotica/masturbation. For what it’s worth: as a 23-year-old woman who grew up (and is still currently) very active in the church, the last time I heard a single word about masturbation from a church authority was when I was 12 years old, in a highly-inappropriate temple recommend interview. Since then, it has not been mentioned to me. When my husband and I met with a bishop in order to receive our living ordinance recommends, the one and only guideline given was that we could use any means of sexual expression that we both felt comfortable with. Though the word “masturbation” doesn’t appear in the Church Handbook of Instructions, there is this counsel: “Married couples should also understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.” According to Natasha and Jennifer (and me), self-stimulation can definitely be a part of that for some couples. Even in “For the Strength of Youth,” the counsel is clearly not to arouse these “powerful emotions” before marriage; it doesn’t mention a thing about the (in)appropriateness of self-gratification within the context of marriage. And I agree with the follow-up comment from Bill: we don’t need permission to do what we know is acceptable or right for our own relationships. It’s not meet that we should be commanded in all things, right?

    But anyway …

    What I really wanted to say, before I got distracted by the other comment, was that these three episodes are probably the most valuable things, on a personal level, that I have ever heard regarding sexuality from a Mormon/female viewpoint. I’m so thankful to you both, Natasha and Jennifer. I want to give you both a hug. My experience is that after a lifetime of obedience to the law of chastity (and all the other things that a good Mormon girl should be obedient to), I’ve found myself stunted as a sexual person. My husband and I have been married for two years, and we have yet to consummate our marriage. Though we do have an intimate relationship, intercourse hasn’t been a part of it. There are a multitude of reasons as to why, most of which involve my own hang-ups over what that step will mean, based on all of my YW lessons about how a dirty flower is no longer desirable, how it’s ladylike to resist the advances of men. It’s pretty much a nightmare for both of us, and my poor husband, as supportive as he’s been, definitely fits into the category of Mormon men who grew up thinking that marital sex would be awesome and fun, and now feels cheated that he has a wife who just can’t flip the switch between “sex is not okay” and “sex is great.”

    All I want to do is forward this podcast to every bishop and YW/RS leader in the world. This is needed information.

  30. December 6, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Excellent excellent excellent. If only I could talk my wife into spending the time to listen to this podcast. So many comments I want to make and so much hit home for me. Excellent.

    Thank you!!

  31. Jason
    December 7, 2010 at 9:06 am

    I enjoyed the podcast very much. I believe the LDS Church has been, and still is to a large extent, shaming and overly controlling in the way it teaches about sexuality. As you have discussed so very well this causes q myriad of problems. Guilt, forgiving others,forgiving self, being able to feel self worth, shame that can lead to compulsive behaviors are part of the results. I came of age in the 70s and the of the Spencer Kimball and David O. McKay quotes you gave are just the tip of the iceberg. I know your research focused on women but a boy who masturbated or had other issues suffered extreme guilt and shame as well.

    Now regarding your comments about the virgin/whore labeling that is created in the way the church teaches, again spot on. I have so much personal angst and anger about this. I was raised LDS but my beautiful wife was not. She converted at age 22. When we married I was a virgin but she was not. She was honest about this before we were married. I figured I could be fine with this. She had come to Christ, repented, had the courage as a young adult to change her life significantly so why should it be an issue? In fact I admired her for taking such big step. In a way it made me love her more. Unfortunately, much to my shame and sorrow I struggled mightily with this through out our marriage and even after almost 30 years, still do at times. I have sought out counseling for this and have found that there are other issues in my make up as well as in the way my wife and I interact in regards to emotional intimacy that may drive the sensitivity in this other area more. But I cannot help but realize that what was ingrained in my from the Church I viewed as speaking for God has really made this harder for us. I have had to realize that my wife is and was so much more than the mistakes she made in relationships from her pre LDS days. I have also had to conclude that some of what and how the church teaches about sexuality is nonsense. The idea of sexual sin being next to murder, that virtue lost cannot be regained even through the atonement, the bad analogies, the over emphasis on girls being the gatekeeper that ends up in the virgin/whore scenario,spending 90% of the time teaching the do nots with mercy,forgiveness and redemption being an after thought almost all needs to change.

    My wife was the most wonderful person I had ever met is spite of her mistakes. And she has become even more wonderful. I just wish that some things that were and are so ingrained in my mind that are nonsense were not so hard to purge.

    • Little Bird
      November 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      Jason,

      First, I find it troubling that you repeatedly refer to your wife’s “mistakes” prior to marriage. If she was not a member of the Church, and she was raised with different standards than the LDS, then why do you call her actions “mistakes”?  It seems like you are not quite willing to forgive her, even though it is not for you to forgive.Second – Dude, she married you without even a “test drive”.  Do I really need to say more about how much she must love you.  Open your heart to her and let go of her past.  Enjoy the present for all it is worth, for it is all that you have.  You cannot live life by constantly looking in the rearview mirror.

  32. James Black
    December 7, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    @John, Why do I need to find a quote from the Church Handbook on whether masturbation is wrong or not? I’m coming from my own personal experience. I have served around many Bishoprics and the majority of them condone the use of Pornography, or masturbation in all forms. This includes the use of them in a marriage. I have no idea if this is written somewhere in the recent edition of the Handbook or not.

    Let me ask you this John. Why does it have to be in the Handbook in order for church leaders to address it? I imagine most try to follow the Handbook as much as possible. I certainly tried too. In my experience, most church leaders follow the spirit and their instincts when it comes to areas that the Handbook doesn’t address directly. For example, lets say that the Handbook doesn’t address masturbation, or Pornography directly. What does that mean? Does that mean that it must be ok? Does that mean that a church leader is no longer allowed to addresses these issues in an interview setting? Of course not. So why do you put so much emphasis on whether it’s in the Handbook or not? It is irrelevant. Most church leaders I have been around discourage and frown on these behaviors and some have issued discipline in certain situations.

    Avoid the very appearance of evil. That is something we should all take heed of. Even if this particular phrase isn’t in the Handbook.

    Thanks,
    James

  33. Jason
    December 8, 2010 at 10:11 am

    James,

    The biggest issue in my opinion is this. The Church is intrusive into the sexual lives of married couples. It is a sad thing really because the Church controls sexual behavior before marriage and often uses fear, guilt and shame to do so. Masturbation when not excessive or coupled with a porn addiction is a very minor issue and actually, really not sinful at all. For a married couple to use this in a healthy respectful way to explore how their bodies respond to each other, or even to use manual stimulation of oneself while making love is quite fine. Personally I see nothing wrong with masturbation for anyone ever as long as it is not excessive.

    For Natasha and Jennifer, you imply that the Church has a position that whatever a couple is personally comfortable with is ok. You then discuss a variety of ways couples may improve their sex lives. However, the Church really is not ok. There have been many comments by Church leaders that married couples who think whatever they do behind bedroom doors is ok but not so. They then say anything that is impure or unnatural is not ok. And while they do not spell it out there are some things they imply are not ok, such as oral sex, mechanical devices and other things I won’t mention here. In there early 80s there was a letter from the First Presidency that stated that married couples engaging in impure, unholy and unnatural acts should not have a temple recommend. They then said oral sex met that definition. However, it seems the bishops and SPs started asking specific in temple recommend interviews. There was such an up roar that the FP back peddled a bit and said that bishops and SPs should not ask specifics and only discuss such things if someone brought it up in an interview on their own.

    The LDS Church has a long, long way to go before it really figures out how to approach this with its members in a healthy way. My take is it will change only with time as persons like Natasha and Jennifer are more open about these things and as older leader die and younger ones with less rigid ideas come into leadership. It is a sad thing really that something so wonderful is still often ruined because of heavy handed monolithic methods of control. For my wife and I we just decided a long time ago that we would keep the Church out of our marriage bed. And honestly, I don’t think God is there watching either.

    • New2podcasts
      August 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      I recall the letter read over the pulpit that said no oral , even if you are married. I thought it was in the 70’s however, and not the 80’s. Regardless of how damaging the church corporations actions were and are, the majority of pupits called saints do not open their eyes and see what is going on. Number 1, if it is the Lords church and God is Love then it is obvious that either the church or the Lord is false. Did God direct these Fear mongoring commandments or did control and manipulation power addicts try to make sure we go to heaven no matter what? What is agency? What was the supposed plan that 1/3 of the spirit children supported?

      The church is definitely unique and peculiar. Either God said it face to face to a Prophet or he didn’t. The corporation back petals because it is not governed by God. If so God is wishy washy and is the poster child for mental disease. Lord take a stand and stick with adecision for a change cuz the church corporation sure can’t.

      • Jeffrey
        October 25, 2011 at 11:28 pm

        There was no letter read over the pulpit. There was only a letter disseminated to bishops, which is the letter you are referencing.

        It is not doctrine, it was never introduced as doctrine, and never was sustained as doctrine. In the scheme of the gospel, it is entirely and completely meaningless and irrelevant.

  34. Jim
    December 8, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    To add a little bit of my own perspective to James’ comments:

    I think James is VERY close to defining the Church’s view on marital sexuality. Personally, I see it as a “punch and run” set of policies. What i mean by that is that the Church makes HUGE, sweeping statements about what is right and wrong in these matters, but then fails to fully define the matter. i.e. we should avoid “unholy and impure practices;” what practices are those? Good luck finding out in any intelligent, adult conversation!

    In the past, the Church was VERY specific about certain practices, but then over the years realized that they were doing more damage than good by “meddling.” So they pulled back– WAY back! Now it seems that we have a cultural imperative that sexual matters are NEVER to be discussed at all by the Church, since it doesn’t fall in the approved curriculum on Sunday. Meanwhile, other Christian churches are using a wealth of biblical references (including the Song of Solomon, as well as various New Testament passages) to teach healthy marital intimacy attitudes to adult married couples. While Mormons are taught that the Song of Solomon was erroneously inserted in the Bible, other Christians are using it as a guide to marital intimacy. I’m truly jealous.

    I hope the LDS Church(both the “brethren” and the members) can someday find a way to adopt a healthy attitude toward marital sexuality that isn’t “hot or cold.” I wouldn’t mind some guidance and encouragement at church in this realm, but I know better. It would be refreshing just once to hear a General Authority acknowledge the neglect and abuse that spouses inflict on one another by withholding sexual affections. But again, it seems we do not have a culture in our Church that supports marital sexuality, so that would be a long wait.

    I wonder if the Church will be 10 years late in identifying the scope of this problem, just like they were with pornography.

  35. Michael
    December 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    John & James:

    There is a not-so-veiled reference to masturbation in Book 1 of the 2010 Handbook of Instructions. The reference is in section 6.7.1 – When a Disciplinary Council is Not Necessary:

    Failure to Comply with Some Church Standards – A disciplinary council should not be held to discipline or threaten members who do not comply with the Word of Wisdom, who are struggling with pornography or self-abuse, or whose transgressions consist of omissions, such as failure to pay tithing, inactivity in the Church, or inattention to Church duties.

    I would say this is at least a step in the right direction. Back in the 1970’s, the Church published a guide for Bishops titled, quite aptly, “The Bishop’s Guide”. That book specifically directed Bishops to, during interviews, ask about masturbation. Perhaps the Church is recognizing that this “weakness” (as President Kimball referred to it in “The Miracle of Forgiveness”) is just that…a weakness and not a salvation-threatening transgression.

  36. Jason
    December 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Michael

    I certainly think the Church is backing off on masturbation being a major issue. When I was a bishop I searched for guidance on this and found little. So I counseled with my SP. He said to treat it lightly and not make a big deal about it unless someone was confessing it as a habitual issue or using porn with it. From anecdotal discussions I have had with others for young men it is so common and even as missionaries MPs say it is frequently brought to them. They don’t make a major issue out of it.

    To Jim above, I thing your comments were spot on. Thanks for sharing. The Church leaders should listen to these two ladies on the podcast. They should also check out similar discussions on blogs like Mormon Feminist Housewives. There are healthier ways to teach the value of Chastity along with the beauty and wonder of married sexual relations without the shaming tactics and the creation of the virgin/whore scenario that creates so much guilt and emotional baggage for women and men. I would like to see the Church encourage premarital counseling with qualified therapists as well.

  37. Ryan
    December 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Natasha and Jennifer,

    I just wanted to say, awesome interview! You are both doing important work. I appreciate your intelligent and astute perspective. There needs to be orders of magnitude more people like you in the church. Please keep up the great work.

  38. P.T.
    December 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you for a very interesting and enlightening interview. You have given me a lot to think about.

    I am interested to know your perspective on elective cosmetic surgery, specifically breast augmentation. The LDS church cautions against this, there was an Ensign article 2 or 3 years ago about the topic, basically saying that our bodies are temples and we should appreciate them as they are. If both the husband and wife are in favor of it because they feel it will enhance the sexual experience, do you see anything wrong with it? Thank you.

  39. Kris
    December 10, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you Jennifer and Natasha!

  40. Carrie
    December 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    The one item I kept waiting to hear discussed in this candid and enlightening podcast was how the wearing of temple garments might influence one’s feelings of sexuality. The idea that nakedness must be covered, the fact that we are asked by priesthood authorities if we are wearing them day and night, the potential lack of sex appeal one might feel when wearing them, etc. Also the frustration one might feel trying to wear them underneath a bra — just seems like it is hard to feel fully empowered about one’s body when one feels duty bound to daily put on poorly fitting underwear. This may have seemed too sacred to discuss? but looking at the other topics addressed, it seemed like a respectful conversation could have included this topic which I am sure influences the sex lives of many LDS members.

  41. Jason
    December 10, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Carrie

    For so many garments are inhibiting. The simple solution is to not wear them when getting ready for physical intimacy. Taking them off before and putting a surprise on underneath can be rather fun. Though it did take a number of years for my wife and I to be able to do this. Still they always came off before intimacy and sometimes they came off just before and were replaced with something else.

    As for comfort I do feel bad for women and the awkwardness that is caused by poor fits, bras, etc. I am sure what I will say next will be offensive to some. But the cynic in me cannot help but thinking the garments were created just for this purposes, to repress our sexuality. I have heard anecdotes that some people won’t take them off for sex, or even when they bathe or shower that remove still leave them on one leg while they wash the rest of the body. And how many people do you know that get asked about what underwear they wear once every two years for a requirement to enter the most sacred place of worship that religion has.

  42. Diana
    December 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Carrie,

    Garments do not have to be worn under the bra. Anymore! 🙂 I got endowed almost ten years ago and wore it under through the years. Recently, my friend went through the Temple and told me otherwise. I didn’t believe and decided to ask my friends in the Temple presidency. Their response was that garments TRADITIONALLY were worn next to the skin but don’t have to be anymore. They just need to be on! The Church consists of people who are not perfect in their perception or self expression. However, Gospel is still true!!!

    Natasha & Jennifer,

    Thank you so much for addressing the topic! It’s much needed and very helpful! 🙂

  43. tol
    December 11, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Natasha: I suggest calling it “Romantica” as opposed to Erotica for the sake of the sheltered ones who only think of Madonna’s book, dimestore novels, or the Kama Sutra when erotica is mentioned.

    I was very frustrated that there seemed to be so much emphasis on discovering ones(particularly in the case of the wife) needs privately prior to being able to connect with ones spouse later one. Saying that a certain organ is JUST for the female seemed utterly strange to me. MY experience is enhanced when HERS is. So if stimulation of that “sensual only” organ will enhance her experience, it will enhance mine as well.

  44. Sophia
    December 12, 2010 at 5:11 am

    Wow. Wow. Wow. By far my favorite podcast. I’m a huge fan of sexuality and such and love love love this podcast. I wish EVERYONE could hear it. It is SOOOOOOO important. I think this topic, specifically marital intimacy is more important than temple worship. Consider your bedroom a temple and your bed an alter and be one!!!! Enjoy it. The men and women both need this information so they can see clearer!!!

  45. Michael Closson from Toronto Stake
    December 14, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Natasha and Jennifer. Thanks for this podcast. My wife and I listened to it together and we both loved it. I will check out the book “How to Talk to Your Child About Sex”. I have a 10 year old boy and a 7 year old girl and I don’t want them (especially my son) to grow up with the same deep shame about sex that I did.

    Also, Thanks to everyone who shares in the comments. I read them all and try to understand where everyone is coming from. It seems to me that we as church members have a hard time being objective about anything that seems to be in opposition to what the brethren have said. Church is not the place to have these kinds of discussions. I think John is awesome for making this kind of forum. I really appreciate it.

  46. Michael Closson from Toronto Stake
    December 14, 2010 at 10:22 am

    @Nate: How did you get your avatar?

  47. kj
    December 14, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Great podcast here – my wife and I enjoyed this very much. We’re both believing Mormons and have come to many of the insights shared here as we’ve lived our life and struggled through the tensions inherent in approaching “soulful” intimacy in an LDS marriage. There is so much beauty in the church doctrine that allows for amazing intimate experience with others. There is so much in our culture (Mormon, western, puritan, American, etc) that gets in the way of experiencing the kind of intimacy that is possible.

    I was interested in the radical feminist framework from which your dissertation is approached. I was glad that Natasha briefly brought up the way that patriarchy in culture has negatively influenced men as well (men being stereotyped as sex-starved brutes) and I think this could have gone further (not time to touch on everything though).

    Certainly it’s easy to see the way women have been and still are being oppressed throughout the world because of unrighteous dominion coming from patriarchal traditions. I think that men are also negatively influenced from cultural expectations on gender roles. We as men often seem unable to access our feminine side because of the stereotypes placed on men that we should be providers/protectors in a physical sense and not necessarily emotionally. If a man is more in touch with his nurturing side people from many different perspectives would likely question his sexual orientation which further differentiates (I think falsely) the feminine and masculine into culturally accepted boundaries.

    I do think that there is some functionality to being raised to be somewhat sexually naive the way I was in a “strong” LDS home. It’s nice to be able to learn and grow with another person and though it would be nice to start marriage further along (on the same page with spouse and our true selves understanding this part of our identity) it’s not necessary as the process is more important than the destination.

  48. A Grateful Listener
    December 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    This was a great podcast. I think the whole already chewed gum analogy definitely affected me. I was a virgin when I got married, but I wasn’t the cleanest flower on top of the hill. I married a non-member and that happened for a number of reasons, but I think one might be that while I had forgiven myself, I did not think I would ever measure up for a clean Mormon man. I did not want to enter into a marriage always feeling being beneath my husband because I didn’t come to the marriage squeaky clean, almost like I was lucky to find someone who would want me. Who wants a lifetime of that? And if the atonement is real, which I had to believe it was if I was ever going to forgive myself, I didn’t deserve a lifetime of guilt. My bishop told me that I never had to tell the man I married, but that made it seem like I would be holding something for the rest of my life. Why can’t I share my past struggles with my partner? I felt like I carried some kind of disclaimer if I dated Mormon men—not the clean flower you’re expecting. And you don’t solicit that information until things get more serious, because then everyone you ever dated knows your sexual past and previous sins, which isn’t any of their business. And if you wait too long to tell a suitor then there is this fear that it will change a relationship you’ve already invested in emotionally. This isn’t nearly as problematic in the Non-Mormon community. To my husband, I was the purest woman he had ever encountered. When we started getting more serious and sex became an issue he was surprised I hadn’t had sex already, and the surprise made it obvious it didn’t matter to him. Plus, he was willing to uphold my values. And his ability to see my value despite my past made him look like a saint in my eyes. Looking back I knew I had a lot to offer because of the atonement, and I wanted my mate to appreciate my value too. I want to teach my daughters that their chastity is more a gift to themselves, not their future husbands. Thanks for the discussion it was helpful in this endeavor.

  49. Nate
    December 16, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    @Michael Closson – To get an avatar to appear next to your name, you can create a gravatar (kind of like a universal avatar) http://en.gravatar.com/

  50. Holly
    December 17, 2010 at 7:48 am

    First of all, I loved the interview. I appreciate the tone of it most of all–two LDS women frankly discussing a very difficult subject and doing so with no disrespect or anger toward the church. I pray to be able to have such composure some day.

    I would love to hear a follow-up interview about how some of these couples resolved their sexual issues. The interview hits right where many people can painfully relate to it. I would love to hear what kinds of things were suggested in counseling, how the couples approached the difficulties and how their sexual experiences became special. I especially want to know how these people integrated their fantasy lives with their reality.

    Thank you.

  51. Mandi
    December 17, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Just listening to the first podcast, but started reading comments and I decided I had to comment about the talk about masturbation and if it is acceptable. I believe that the key difference that changes is from ok to unacceptable is when it is replacing actual intimacy. I believe it should be an accompaniment to actual intercourse. I hope this makes sense.

  52. Jan
    December 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    The response to this particular podcast has been so great, might I suggest having a similar themed podcast that either covers MALE sexuality within and without of the confines of the LDS religion, or, just sexuality and marriage in general? Ask for a broad range of uninhibited questions beforehand and don’t be afraid of explicit specificity. It could be an incredibly eye-opening and educational episode!

  53. Tol
    December 28, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    +1 male sexuality episode

  54. AB
    December 29, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Thank you so much, Jennifer and Natasha. I found this so helpful. I would also love to hear your perspective on how single LDS women or men can deal with sexuality issues while trying to keep the law of chastity.

  55. Aimee
    January 9, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I have been meaning to listen to this podcast for awhile now also being an LDS and therapist doing individual and couple work. It did not disappoint and I plan on sharing it with friends, family and clients alike! There were so many points that were helpful for me as a therapist and member. I am going to listen to it again (not in my car this time) and take notes. It was so rich with content and valuable take-homes for the listener.

    Thank you for helping the effort around sexuality in our church. If you do ever decide to do research and you need another area of the country to draw from in the sample I would love to participate with you. I am practicing in Redmond, WA.

  56. March 23, 2011 at 1:45 am

    I think the confusion over the policy of the church regarding masturbation and marital sexuality is that the church has used incrementalism to institutionalize changes in these areas. This means allowing positions that were frequently firmly held, to be gradually relaxed by deleting them in a piece-wise fashion from church materials. There is no positive confirmation that masturbation is okay, oral sex is okay in marriage, or that birth control is acceptable. We just don’t hear anyone complain about it anymore so we (the younger generation?) eventually assume it is okay.

    This approach to change is great because it is less disruptive than revelations like that on polygamy and priesthood for the blacks. The problem is no one can figure out what official policy is anymore on these things. My bishop would say masturbation and erotica are a sin pandemic and Natasha would say masturbation and erotica are fine and healthy. Who’s right? Who knows. There is no way to know. This is the curse of trying to harmonize the Mormon past with the Mormon present in the context of a ostensibly unchanging and timeless church.

    • Ethan
      October 20, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      well put

  57. JAY
    May 27, 2011 at 4:19 am

    i just wanna FUCK!

  58. truthseeker
    June 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I gave up trying to have a meaningful sexual relationship with my wife a couple of years ago after six years of marriage. She is a wonderful woman but loaded with sexual hang-ups and has on more than one occasion commented that sex makes her feel dirty. Oh well. After our divorce is finalized I don’t think I will ever re-marry, but if I do I will make sure that sexual compatibility is there.

  59. monica
    June 30, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I really enjoyed listening to this podcast.  Thank you for posting it and I wish both presenters the best of luck with their personal and professional endeavors!  

  60. mari
    August 25, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    This podcast was very interesting. As a young single woman in the Church, I definitely desire to be desirable. However, it seems like women in the Church who are getting married NOW are not as ashamed as they would’ve been in let’s say the ’70s. I felt like this podcast didn’t quite capture the changes that are happening in the Church teachings enough. When I was in young womens, my teachers were very clear that sex is great–when you’re married. They really tried to reinforce that it’s not bad and that your feelings have a purpose, but you simply have to wait. I always appreciated that. When I have talked to girl friends my age getting married, they’re definitely really excited to finally get a chance to express themselves that way. It’s very clear that they’re not just excited about pleasing their future husbands, they’re excited for the pleasure that comes with that connection. And know that these are girls at BYU, getting married in the Temple. So basically I think that in general, the young adults of today feel a lot less shame when they get married than their parent’s generation did.

    • still spot on
      October 24, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      Mari
      I’m really glad that you had a positive experience in YW and are excited for marital intimacy.  But I think you are one of the few who had leaders that taught that way.  I graduated from BYU, married in the temple, and still two years later struggle with sex.  I also know that of the girls I graduated with who also were getting married had the same concerns I did.  This podcast was excellent and brought out many of the fears I have been trying to work through; I think it is still spot on to capture the feelings of many younger LDS women.

    • liza80
      October 27, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      I agree, Mari.  I am 31, have been married 9 years, and had the same experiences you did growing up (in the Seattle area).  My YW leaders expressed things in the same way you described.  I went to BYU and got married the year after I graduated, excited for sexual intimacy with my husband and that new chapter in my life.  I can only think of a couple friends/relatives I grew up with who didn’t feel the same.

  61. Ford
    September 6, 2011 at 4:32 am

    One of the best series of the Mormon Stories podcasts ever. I just recommended them to my Father-in-Law who is the Bishop of a BYU ward.

  62. Liz
    October 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    As a convert to the church, it makes me so sad to see that so many people feel that they have been “damaged” by the Young Men/Young Women programs, cultural influences (NOT doctrine), etc.  I personally wish I had had some of those experiences growing up, but what can you do? 
    I have to say, though, that if you want to get resentful… talk to your parents. 
    No member of the church is perfect, therefore no teacher or leader is, and no interpretation of a lesson is.  And parents should NEVER rely on the church to raise their children… in the same way that they shouldn’t expect the public school system to. 
    The church puts out a handy little manual called A Parents’ Guide that is all about teaching children, through all stages of life about intimacy and sexuality.  There are a few outmoded or sexist ideas, but the main message is “You need to talk to your kids about sex, not once, but over their lives, and do so in a positive, calm way.”
    My son is a toddler, but I’ve been prepping my self and my husband ,
    since the day he was born to raise him with a open communication policy
    and keep it open, and talk to him every Sunday and after every activity
    about what he learned and how it makes him feel (not to mention the
    things he’ll learn in school.)
    I’m sorry, but if you’re hung up on sex, think about how your parents handled it, or if they did at all… and then deal with your issues with them appropriately.  Don’t cast out a net of blame and drag everyone else around.  And if you’re worried about your own children… TALK TO THEM. 

  63. Mrs
    October 20, 2011 at 12:19 am

    There is not enough dialogue about sex among women in the church and new wives often struggle with having no one to talk to about it. A few friends marriages have crumbled because there is no support in the LDS church structure for those that are having a rough time with the transition. We tend to have a very 1950’s attitude toward it – long suffering and don’t talk about it.

  64. Anonymous
    October 20, 2011 at 3:48 am

    I’m going to make myself listen to this entire podcast, because I do agree that there needs to be more open dialogue among Mormon women about sexuality and there should be a place for it where there won’t be fear of judgement, nor coming across information, images, etc that we are not looking for.  BUT, I’ve got to say I’m having a hard time even getting started after the initial conversation about the idea that in being asked to become like Christ we have this idea that we are being asked to become something other than what we are.  

    Huh.  I just can’t relate to that.  I have never once thought that becoming Christlike means I need to be another gender, rather that it was possible for me to emulate His qualities.  

    Maybe my experiences have been different than most, but I was always taught that sex was good….between a man and a wife.  I never felt badly for having sex once I was married.  Has it been a journey and a learning experience?  Absolutely.  Even after 10 years of marriage I am learning more about myself and my husband.  And I think the journey has been the greatest part of it.

  65. happily
    October 20, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I find it curious that some want to criticize the church for being too involved in our lives, and then turn around and criticize the church for not doing ENOUGH in talking about sexuality. You can’t have it both ways, so I’m led to believe that it’s just easier for some to blame others than to look inward at what their real issues are. I for one feel that my complicated feelings about sexuality in marriage come more from my parents, who are both converts. So they’re ideas about sex didn’t come from growing up in the church. The church however, gave me beautiful guidelines on  saving sex for marriage. My own issues in marriage have come from me ignoring those guidelines and from having to heal from the negative sexual experiences I had before marriage. 

    Also, at one point Natasha says talking about sexuality is not the norm among Mormon women, but from my small sampling of book clubs I’ve been to in different wards, I would say exactly the opposite! ha ha

    • liza80
      October 27, 2011 at 11:06 pm

      I agree!  My friends and sisters(all active LDS) always talk about sex — how much we’re having, if we enjoy it, how often each partner wants it, etc.

  66. wifeofatherapist
    October 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    I agree with happily. When I read through these, I was amazed that so many people blame the church for their sexual issues. If your parents left you to glean all your sexual education from YM/YW, then of course you’re messed up. The church gives guidelines. If you have ever served in primary, YW or YM, or read the leadership handbook, it is very clear that we (the leaders) are there to support the teaching that should be going on in the home. We are not a substitute. I guess my experience is unusual, but my parents made it clear to me that sex is wonderful and enjoyable and nothing to be ashamed of. Because I learned this at home, the things taught at church served to strengthen my beliefs. If your parents don’t guide those beliefs first (or if they teach you/show you the wrong thing), is it any wonder so many people take away the wrong feeling/teachings. We all interpret things differently, so it is important for parents to steer us in the right direction! I found it interesting that so many of the commenters site the same ways the church made them feel that sex was dirty, when I experienced the same “parables” (or whatever they are), and yet I never thought twice about them until now. I did not take away a feeling of dirtiness or wrong from anything I was taught. It makes me sad that my experience is apparently not the norm. It is your parents you should be blaming. Now get some therapy. Also, (kind of) like happily said, I have never met an LDS woman who didn’t talk openly about sex. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I can ever have a conversation with a woman that doesn’t eventually lead to that topic. Maybe that used to be true for  older generations, but as a 30-something, I think those days are over. 

  67. SatisfiedLady
    October 24, 2011 at 5:24 am

    Society is more responsible for twisting and distorting sexuality than the Church is. I only wish that growing up, my views had always been what my bishop taught me later: That sex was sacred because it leads to procreation, and the lives sex creates ARE indeed sacred, and should not be toyed with, ended, or brought into being wantonly and without strong consideration of the kind of situation into which it will be brought. I was never taught not to use birth control, or to be sexually stolid. You can’t blame the Church, but your PARENTS, who were responsible for teaching you, and YOURSELF for being too weak to seek out answers for yourself.

  68. courtney
    November 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks for these great podcasts.  My husband and I have enjoyed listening to them.  I think in addition to not having as much of an erotic education as males, females often have the opposite; painful periods, putting a tampon in, dealing at 12 years old with blood staining your clothes, uncomfortable doctor’s visit.  For me it sort of “desexualized” the organs and they were more associated with the uncomfortable monthly menstruation which I really resented.  I also would like you to address how different desire is during pregnancy and when a mother is exhausted from taking care of small children.  I feel pretty healthy sexually until pregnancy or exhaustion sets in.  But then things seem to pick up again.

    Again, you’re doing a great service by just talking about these issues.

    • Anonymous
      November 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks, Courtney!!!!

  69. Maggie
    February 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    This was great information. Thank you! 
    Question for Dr. Fife (if you read this) Is it possible to get a podcast or other form of information on sexless marriage because the HUSBAND is not interested or very low desire? Causes for why this happens and helps on how to have a successful marriage in these circumstances?

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