What messages about sexuality did you learn from church doctrine/culture and how did those messages impact you as a teen? How did those messages impact you as an adult? Please share as much as you are comfortable.


Female, Heterosexual, 27, Attending and nuanced

That if you had any sort of sexual behavior before marriage that you needed to repent. I was also taught that you can never go back from sexual conduct. When I had some sexual relations before marriage I felt so guilty that I decided to confess. My bishop told me that I had given away a gift that I could never give to my future husband now and that really affected and still affects me honestly.

Female, Heterosexual, 58, No longer a member

1. Sex is a sin outside of marriage, buuuut you can’t help yourself. It’s gonna happen.
2. Girls who have sex before marriage are like chewed gum.
3. Girls are responsible for boys’ “chastity” because boys can’t help themselves.
4. It’s your fault boys can’t help themselves because your body is so tempting.
5. It’s painful for boys to be aroused and not have sex. You are responsible for that pain.
6. If your husband has sex outside of your marriage, it is your fault for not keeping him satisfied. What do you expect?
7. Your body is not your own. It belongs to your husband.
8. If your husband wants sex he is entitled to it no matter how you feel about it
9. Oral sex is a sin. (This was an interesting one! OMG what a journey! I was read a letter from the first presidency about oral sex being a sin, at my temple recommend interview. My husband, who had his temple recommend interview the same night–AND WHO CONFESSED THAT NIGHT TO HAVING HAD ORAL SEX WITH A GIRL HE HAD JUST BAPTISED RIGHT BEFORE HE MET ME, and lied to get his temple recommend to marry me–was NOT read the letter, nor informed of any policy regarding it. He continued to pressure me for oral sex, which I had heretofore not had a problem with and refused to believe that I had been read a letter about it. It caused much grief and anguish in our relationship. (He did not confess to ME about the aforementioned encounter until a few years later.) The church later denied ever having issued such a policy, but my sisters who lived in different states were also read the letter, and we discussed it contemporaneously.
I lived for 25 years in a sexually abusive marriage. Largely because of indoctrination about sex from the church.

Female, Pansexual, 32, Haven’t removed my records, but no longer a member in my eyes.

How many characters are allowed? LOL I’ll try to sum up!
Sexuality is between one man and one wife (M/F), but it’s not meant to be enjoyable- not for her. Men have no control over themselves. Women are submissive and subjective to the man’s whims and encouraged to stay in an abusive relationship because it’s their duty. If any abuse occurs, it is the victim’s fault. Women are required to look and present themselves in a specific way, or they are not worthy or valuable. Women’s health and sexuality is a sin. You are a sinner for being born with a vagina. It’s all Eve’s fault and because of her sin, all women are submissive and less than men.
So glad I no longer believe those lies!

Female, Heterosexual, 45, No longer a member

Don’t do it or anything until you are married. I had no clue girls could even do it. I can’t say how it really affected me. Because I know no different.

Female, Queer, 40, No longer a member

Sex was wrong. Even just making out felt wrong because of the teachings I heard. Then, when I got married the first time and, being a virgin, all of a sudden I was expected to have sex and please my husband. It never felt right or comfortable. I felt that women were not held to as high of a status as men. Double standards everywhere.

Female, Heterosexual, 43, Not attending

I was taught that there are only 2 genders and each had very specific roles but were “equals”. That’s not what I saw and felt. Anything other than being heterosexual was a sin and must not be acted on.

Female, Heterosexual, 43, Attending and nuanced

Modesty, I have always worn tank tops, modest shorts (no booty put), I never understood how showing my body was bad.

Female, Heterosexual, 30, Attending and non-believer

No message from the church except for not to do whatever “sex” was until I was married and then only do it to produce children. These teachings made me feel really shameful when I started exploring and trying things out. They also made me really naive because I didn’t even know females could organism until I was like 27. Also being taught so little made me extremely curious when I got older. If I knew everything at a younger age, I wouldn’t have been so curious.

Female, Bisexual, 34, Not attending

Most of what I learned I feel was cultural and negativity impacted me. Putting not having sex before marriage on a pedestal caused me to marry someone who wasn’t ideal. I had a hard time being ok with my pleasure being just as important as a man’s and learning to enjoy sex for fun. I was also told to never say no to your husband again cultural and it caused a lot of issues with our relationship and me feeling used.

Female, Heterosexual, 30, No longer a member

You had to be straight and a virgin until marriage or you would burn in hell. Also, gay people were not born that way and it was just “confusion” and the devil testing them.

Female, Heterosexual, 29, Not attending

Sexual sin is next to murder. Oral sex isn’t allowed. Women get taught more (and more extreme) about being pure than men.

Female, Bisexual, 28, Not attending

Sex was taboo. You can’t have sex and if you do, you’re not worthy of love. Then you get married and suddenly it’s fine??

Female, Bisexual, 25, No longer a member

That men and women are the only acceptable marriages. Shouldn’t have kids until marriage.

Male, Heterosexual, 42, No longer a member

Don’t do it.

Female, Heterosexual, 38, Not a member but haven’t removed my name from records

I feel the church shamed me for having normal teenage feelings and acting on them in very small ways. I feel the church’s positions contributed to depression and negative feelings of self-worth that I struggle with even to this day. Even though I haven’t attended regularly in over 15 years.

Female, Heterosexual, 40, Not attending

Taboo until marriage, inappropriate to talk about.

Female, Heterosexual, 27, Not attending

That male arousal was my fault.
To be afraid of my body.
If things went too far sexually, even when I’ve tried to stop it and have gone as far as to fight the guy off of me, that was my fault and I was called to repentance.
Men aren’t able to control themselves so it is up to women not to put them in uncomfortable positions.
That the trials (such as infertility) my husband and I have had since getting married are because we “broke the law of chastity” (not even with sex) before we got married.

Female, Heterosexual, 34, No longer a member

Sex was only for marriage. If you had any sexual feelings outside of a marriage, you were dirty and a sinner, and needed forgiveness.

Female, Heterosexual, 29, No longer a member

Sex before marriage is a sin. Once defiled you were like chewed gum. This lesson led me to stay with an abusive boyfriend for years because I thought no one else would want me. He also used this church lesson against me and told me the same (he was also a church member).
Once I got out of that abusive relationship I married my husband in the temple. He was not taught about consent and thought since we were married he could have sex with me whenever he wanted. So thus, marital rape. When I told this bishop what was happening he couldn’t have cared less and shrugged it off and said “well sex is an important part of marriage, isn’t it?”

Female, Heterosexual, 41, Not attending

Teen – promiscuous but not sexually active…fear of God put into me by parents. Adult – super uncomfortable with sexuality, not very sexually active, don’t know how to express desires with husband, feel unsexy and broken.

Genderfluid, Pansexual, 26, No longer a member

I was terrified to have sex until I left the church. I’m still uncomfortable with sex sometimes. I feel like my sexuality was suppressed for a very long time and I am still working through that.

Female, Heterosexual, 42, No longer a member

Complete lack of autonomy, my sexual parts belong to my future husband. I was completely unaware of my own sexuality. The idea of polygamy horrified me for so many reasons… I would belong to my husband but the second he was tired, bored, and/or disgusted by me I should be replaced by a newer, fresher, hotter, version. I would be left to do slave labor. The only reason this wasn’t in my immediate future was because of our country’s laws. The second we got to the celestial kingdom – game on. (I refused to get married in the temple for this reason. The celestial kingdom seemed like hell.) As an adult, I married an RM jack-Mormon to appease my mother but avoid the temple. It took years and years to figure out my own sexuality, recognize desire, and establish boundaries. Still working on this.

Male, Heterosexual, 40, No longer a member

I thought masturbation was bad, carried a ton of guilt from normal sexual thoughts. Felt incapable of having a healthy relationship as a teen and as a young adult. Went to therapy as a young adult, and as a married man. I feel like I missed out on a lot of typical coming of age and young adult experiences.

Male, Heterosexual, 50, No longer a member

I was taught that any sexual activity outside of marriage was a sin next to murder, including masturbation. That you were better dead and clean than alive and unclean. That I should be perfect even as my father in heaven was perfect. These messages were taught me constantly starting at 12 in Deacons Quorum. My small failures left me self loathing and with damaged mental health as a result growing up, something that continued well into my adult life.
My mental health gets better every day since I left the church 4 years ago.

Female, Heterosexual, 38, Not attending

Sex before marriage is a sin next to murder. As a young girl, I read a passage from The miracle of forgiveness, where it stated that it was better for a young woman to die virtuous than be defiled sexually. That’s how I understood it. You were dirty and unworthy if you had sexual thoughts or masturbated or watched porn.

Female, Bisexual, 21, No longer a member

Do not touch yourself, no not let anyone else touch you, and if you have sex, your worth will be next to nothing and no husband will want you. I had medical issues when I was younger and I always thought it was God punishing me for masturbating at a young age. I would cry and night in pain, begging for forgiveness from God, asking if he might lessen the pain if I promised not to do it again.

Female, Bisexual, 58, No longer a member

Sex was wrong- sinful
Only have sex if you are trying to get pregnant. Any other time was sinful.

Female, Heterosexual, 18, Not attending

Gender roles affected me greatly. I thought for a long time that I would base my life around getting married and having kids. Now I’m not so sure anymore. Working through how I really feel about those kinds of decisions is interesting since I’m thinking for myself and not following the criteria.

Female, Bisexual, 29, No longer a member

That having sex before marriage was evil and that I was a horrible sinner for doing it even if it was carefully and with someone I cared about. I felt that way u ’til my early twenties.

Female, Heterosexual, 44, No longer a member

Don’t do it, don’t think about it, don’t talk about it, don’t watch it. and if you do, you’re damaged goods. it made it very difficult to not see sex as a negative thing, even after marriage. any sexual activity before marriage made me feel damaged and sinful. and then after a few minutes in the temple, it was all okay. but the mental dilemma of avoiding all sexual thought and activity made it nearly impossible to enjoy it when it was finally “allowed”.

Female, Bisexual, 36, Working towards nonmember

Being a woman was bad, my body was an object. It was my responsibility to reign in the behavior of the young men around me. Death was seen as a better option than sex before marriage. Sex was equated with sin. Being bisexual was a choice, the wrong choice. The normal and beautiful functions of my body are wrong because “the natural man” is an enemy to god. Masturbation for example was a tool of the devil to lead me off the path. I’m still trying to overcome all of these negative teachings. My sexual relationship with my husband continues to suffer because of it. It’s deep trauma and it’s hard to get over.

Female, Heterosexual, 31, Not attending

Sex was never talked about in a positive way until my temple marriage ceremony (multiply and replenish!). Sex was always an abstract, sinful concept. Don’t have sex! Don’t have thoughts about sex! (But never talking about what it was… I found out from movies and friends). I had the infamous gum wrapper lesson in YW. Also had the “crinkled up piece of paper” lesson with the same analogy (“you can never make it clean again.”) I was sexually assaulted at 17 and didn’t tell a single soul for 2 years. I was mortified that my virtue was gone. I remember reading the Miracle of Forgiveness, there’s a part about it being better for a woman to DIE defending her virtue than to lose it. I felt dirty and unworthy of love. I later married in the temple – my husband and I were “worthy” and didn’t have sex until our wedding night. It was awkward and not intimate. I did not discover true intimacy until I was divorced. This intimacy, by church standards, was a sin. And that’s something I will never understand.

Female, Heterosexual, 33, Not attending

I was responsible for how men viewed me. Even the lace I wore on my shirt could make them think of me in a sexual manner. That I was the reason that my spouse could turn to pornography. If I didn’t dress sexy or wear makeup then could turn to porn.

Female, Lesbian, 40, Not attending

I experienced shame about masturbation as a 5 or 6-year-old, tried to quit, was told it was an addiction when I was a teen, I was afraid of guys because I was told they all wanted to rape me, got the “chewed gum” lesson. I thought there was something wrong with me because I was interested in sex and a woman. Then I felt shame and confusion when I discovered I was gay. I have taken 6 years to become comfortable expressing myself sexually with my girlfriend/wife. I have only recently been able to relax and get out of my head enough to orgasm.

Female, Heterosexual, 35, Not attending

If I broke the law of chastity before marriage it would haunt me forever. Even French kissing was wrong. And that my immodest body made others do bad things. I still feel as an adult that my children being “immodest” is a bad example and people are somehow less than for dressing a certain way. And it’s hard to break the cycle of feeling sorry for people who aren’t living the law of chastity I thought was right when I was younger.

Female, Heterosexual, 64, Attending and non-believer

1) I learned as a youth and single person that acknowledging sexuality in any form (dress, actions, words, entertainment, interests, etc.) was forbidden. However, sex after marriage was okay as long as it was kept within the bounds the Lord (ie prophetic leaders) had set (see forms noted above), except once married you were now allowed to have intercourse with your spouse, particularly for the purpose of procreation. 2) As a teen, it made every discussion or innuendo about sexuality uncomfortable, including and especially in interactions with the opposite sex. I was super shy and did not develop socially. 3) As an adult, I was still uncomfortable around the opposite sex. As a married person, I was still embarrassed by talking about sex. It was rarely overtly discussed between us. Subsequently, we had an awkward sexual relationship. I was frankly relieved when we stopped having sex, though sometimes now I wish I could feel that type of intimacy once again with my spouse, but without the expectations and awkwardness.
We followed the patterns learned in our homes growing up, which was to not talk about sex. Everything I knew about sex before I was married came from on health class and church teachings (which are given in a morality framework and with plentiful vague euphemisms). Unfortunately, I followed the same pattern of parenting with my own children. Overall, I have to judge these patterns as unhealthy.

Female, Heterosexual, 30, Not attending

It defiles your body and masturbation is sinful selfish behavior. So much shame in arousal as a teenager and even more shame when I was molested and was communicated my body’s urges were a reflection of my lack of worthiness and should consider repentant behavior.

Female, Heterosexual, 36, No longer a member

To be ashamed of my body- especially when I started to wear garments. It felt like a daily shaming ritual.
I felt dirty and broken for having sex before marriage. Even though there was the atonement and I followed the repentance process, I felt like it would never fully work on me.
As a woman, I was to make myself desirable to men. It was never about me or what I wanted I was just there to give pleasure but not receive. Reviving pleasure still takes awareness for me as an adult because I feel like a whore or dirty if I want to act on my desires.

nonbinary demigirl, Lesbian, 18, Not attending

I had the impression that sex itself was bad and that even touching someone of the opposite gender would be seen as sexual I still struggle with making friendships with men today.

Female, Queer, 28, No longer a member

Sex was very bad. Only until marriage. It would have been the worst thing in the world to my parents if I had sex before marriage. I would’ve hated myself for it. As an adult, I’m still working to reprogram my thinking so I feel good being sexual. It’s hard to remove the idea that sexuality is bad. I also feel an immense pressure to have lots of sex and have babies, so it’s a really weird juxtaposition. Have all the sex but don’t like it! I want to explore my sexuality with my husband and more enjoyable and fun ways to have sex, that’s also really hard since the church frowns on exploring sexual activity. Even within marriage. Which is so dumb!

Female, Bisexual, 37, Attending and non-believer

Masturbation was next to murder. I couldn’t go to the temple if I masturbated. I was constantly feeling shame for masturbating. I shouldn’t even kiss before marriage. I never learned the mechanics of sex. I still had shame after getting married but my husband helped me overcome that.

Female, Heterosexual, 41, Not attending

I can’t accurately determine if the teachings that I internalized caused my issues, but I suspect they did. I pushed away sexual feelings in the interest of being “chaste” and “virtuous”, stopped arousing activities with boys I was highly attracted to in the interest of not defiling myself or them, married at nineteen to a wonderful man who I was not sexually attracted to, haven’t had one orgasm with him in over twenty years of marriage, have never had an orgasm during the handful of times I have tried masturbating, can only orgasm while in a deep sleep, have broken my husband’s heart repeatedly by my disinterest in and disdain for sex with him, I now find myself with a roving eye and wanting sex with other men so that I can try to experience what I have missed out on for the last twenty-five years, highly preoccupied with this futile endeavor, depressed and even entertaining thoughts of suicide at times when I contemplate that my looks will fade and my chance to be with a man I want sexually will be gone forever.

Female, Bisexual, 29, No longer a member

The church’s message was don’t touch yourself or others, don’t think about others in an inappropriate way, don’t watch porn or movies depicting sexual activities, etc basically just DONT
Then you get married and it’s okay and normal and healthy. That was a stark transition, for which I was not ready. I did not know my body or my body parts, much less the parts of my spouse. Having been taught for so long that physical pleasure is evil, orgasm was hard for me to achieve. I could not understand how a God who loved all of his children would make it so hard for half of them to feel satisfied. I felt betrayed, forgotten. But at the same time, I felt it was sinful to even want to orgasm. I think this is what ultimately led me to leave the church. I realized that there is no plan for my genitals and that orgasm is a biological necessity for males, and not necessarily for females. I still struggle with a lot of anti-sex programming to this day, but it is a lot easier to brush it off.

Female, Heterosexual, 22, Not attending

That sex was “good” but “bad” if done outside of marriage. That whoever you married would be a good sexual partner and leave you feeling fulfilled and satisfied (news flash, that’s bullshit!). If you had sex outside of marriage you had basically committed the second most serious sin next to murder and that by confessing to a bishop would be the only way to get true forgiveness, but having sex after marriage was A1 and welcomed, even if your spouse was a piece of garbage. Modesty was another issue that went hand in hand with sex. If you didn’t cover up (women), then you would be tempting boys and men—and it would be your fault if THEY acted on those feelings (hello victim-shaming??). The fact that I had other women telling me not to wear a thong or a lacy bra that NO ONE could see was appalling and that I was a slut for doing so.

Male, Heterosexual, 58, Atheist

I grow up sexually active with the opposite sex from 15 yrs old even before leaving for my mission. Somehow I never suppressed my sexuality, not even when the Church told me that masturbation is evil and other Law of Chastity related interviews for minor callings. I never believed in confession since I really don’t like anyone telling me what to do and I know everyone is doing what seems to be a natural thing. I realized early on that the Church is implementing these laws and commandments to project its own good image to the public at the expense of the members’ conformity in its unrelenting efforts to the proselyting programs those years. In a way, I was not an obedient convert growing up and drink or smoke hiding, totally against the standard set by the Cult. I had to overcome the peer pressure by acting like I was a good Mormon while sacrificing my own authenticity. That set-up will not last long. Sooner or later I had to sever the Church’s influence in indoctrination and from other questionable issues. In Mormonism, your Free Agency must only be used to enhance the image of the Church whose headquarters is in SL, UT.

Female, Bisexual, 37, Attending and non-believer

Women are a temptation. Women’s bodies are dangerous. Sex is for men’s pleasure and making babies. My job as a woman was to be just attractive enough to get the right man, have his babies, and then disappear in service to them, so there was no point in forming my own identity. Luckily as an adult, I was able to write my own healthy beliefs about sex, but the lack of identity still haunts me to this day. I battle body image issues and self-loathing on a daily basis.

Female, Bisexual, 21, Not attending

While growing up I was taught that immodesty = temptation for others. I was taught that men would view me as pornography if I were to act or dress “provocatively”. As a teen, I felt responsible for the actions and even thoughts of others. I felt guilty for wanting sexual experiences, or even for thinking sexual thoughts. As an adult, I felt responsible for my own sexual assault. A man attempted to rape me, and I thought that it was because I had tempted him.

Non-binary, Pansexual, 38, No longer a member

I definitely learned to feel shame for having sexual thoughts or feelings, and it repressed my ability to have normal adult relationships for the majority of my 20s. It also greatly impacted how I saw my potential as someone who was assigned female at birth (AFAB) and the ways I allowed my own goals and ambitions for my life be discarded in favor of the superior “wife and mother” role I was supposed to take on still affect my life today.

Female, Bisexual, 25, Not attending

My first few boyfriends told me that I (aka my body) was too tempting and they felt I would lead them down a bad path though I usually let them determine how far things went physically. In my adult life, I felt extreme shame around heavy petting, nudity, and eventually sex.

Female, Heterosexual, 48, Not attending

Sex was bad. As a teen I was wild, parents refused to allow me birth control. I got pregnant 3 times before age 18.

Female, Heterosexual, 25, Not attending

I was blackmailed by a stake president (not my stake president. someone I still have never met) into confessing my sexual “sins” to my bishop at the age of 17. I was made to feel ashamed & guilty & unworthy. We also did the “used piece of tape” lesson in seminary, which conveyed the message that those with sexual “sin” are worthless as partners in marriage than those without. I constantly felt guilty and ashamed regarding my 2-year high school relationship. After high school, I didn’t seriously date anyone for 3 years because I didn’t know what normal, healthy, adult dating looked like. When I finally got into a relationship at age 20, it was unhealthy & I was extremely codependent on my boyfriend. I attached all my worth to whether or not I was a good partner, “worthy” of a man. I am now married to a wonderful man, outside of the temple, & am going to therapy to work through all my anxieties & self-confidence issues that I picked up through my upbringing in the church.

Female, Heterosexual, 42, No longer a member

Any sex act turned you into a “chewed piece of gum” and no one would want you after that. masturbation caused me lots of guilt and trauma followed after confessing to the bishop in tears. Also, my mom did not teach me how sex worked. I was completely in the dark the first time and was horrified that penetration was involved. It was painful and embarrassing.

Male, Heterosexual, 46, In the process of removing records.

Sex is dirty and evil. Masturbation drives the spirit away. If your feeling bad, it’s because you are Masturbating. Viewing pornography is abnormal and if you do it, you’re an addict and a deviant. It’s impossible for two people of the same gender to truly fall in love because those true feelings are only possible between a man and a woman.

Female, Heterosexual, 44, No longer a member

The messages literally ruined my life until I was 38.
I was made to feel dirty for being even curious about sex. And like something was wrong with me for being curious. So naturally, curiosity was all that consumed me because it was made out to be such a mystery. So I push the boundaries as far as I could without feeling “guilty”.
But then the church made you feel guilty about even considering birth control or sexual protection because that was ‘planning’ on sinning which was worse than instead of accidentally sinning if you accidentally had sex. So I didn’t get the birth control that I needed and wanted. Because I would’ve felt so judged by my own doctor.
I was made to feel absolutely unworthy of love from anyone once I had sex out of marriage. I got pregnant (of course) and stayed with the dad…..the first person I had sex with because at that point I was a used piece of gum, and considered worthless so I felt stuck and like there was no one else out there for me so I might as well get married and got stuck in a terrible marriage for 18 years.

Female, Heterosexual, 32, Not attending

Sex is sacred. Premarital sex is a sin next to murder. Stay a virgin so you will be desired as a wife.
As a teen, I felt shame if I looked at my own body for too long. As an adult, it was difficult to differentiate after we got married. It still felt like I was doing something I shouldn’t.

Female, Heterosexual, 48, Not attending

Sex outside of marriage is a sin. God only approves sex to strengthen a marriage or to have children. masturbation is a sin and so are sexual thoughts. I grew up with a lot of sexual shame.

Female, Heterosexual, 24, No longer a member

I learned that abstinence was the only option, ”sexual sins’ are on the same scale as murder, there were only 2 genders, only heterosexuality was okay, as a woman I was required to cover my body to ‘protect’ men and boys from feeling aroused, sex was wrong, sexual feelings are wrong, masturbation was a sin, (theRe was plenty more).
As a teen I felt shame. I was pushed into too early of a marriage as to not have sex before marriage. I didn’t understand my worth.
As an adult, it was very hard for me to shake the shame around sex and my body that was pushed on me. I felt powerless in situations regarding sex and sexuality for a long time. I had to teach myself to love myself.

Female, Heterosexual, 52, No longer a member

I was sexually abused as a small child. I thought I was a terrible sinner. The teachings taught in the Miracle of Forgiveness destroyed my self-esteem and led to depression.

Female, Lesbian, 23, No longer a member

Basically (A) women should never have sex unless it’s with their husband (B) yes, if you’re a woman you will have a husband (so any sex I, as a lesbian would be interested in was absolutely not allowed) and (C) physical sex = gender no matter what the science says (even though science very clearly demonstrates that this is false.)

Female, Heterosexual, 27, Not attending

The main messaging received was largely from the For Strength of Youth and your classic modesty lessons about covering up to not be pornography. Internalized messaging for me was Good girls don’t openly like boys, good girls don’t kiss boys, good girls don’t have boyfriends, good girls don’t ask questions about sex, good girls don’t wear anything remotely revealing (even if it was super cute jean shorts and a tank top). My sexuality is bad until a short ceremony changes everything. My mom often made comments about other girls being boy crazy and how they were going to get in trouble and they should wear more modest clothes. So I ascribed to the good girl’s narrative to “stay safe”.
I went through high school feeling very ashamed of my body and felt wrong for thinking a boy was cute. I did not kiss anyone in high school in order to keep my self “pure” largely influenced by a line in my patriarchal blessing “to remain the clean and pure vessel you are and blessings will come”.
I had a wild lack of sexual education and when I went to college was assaulted by two male peers. What started out as consensual honest exploration about kissing turned into terrifying and very unsafe situations because I did not understand what they were doing. I did not understand this as sexual assault until a few years later when I really understood what they had done pushing boundaries, touching me in unwelcome ways, and repeatedly continuing when I said I was uncomfortable. Because of the teachings in my youth, I genuinely believed what happened was my fault and me being punished for going outside the good girl that I knew how to be.
Inside my marriage, it has been intensely hard to let go of that construct of a “good girl” and allow sexual expression or see myself as a sexual being who also has desires and that those desires are okay. I feel a lot of shame around sexual exploration and feeling sexual pleasure even though it’s “okay” now.

Female, Heterosexual, 47, Attending and non-believer

Filled me with guilt for being sexually minded. Guilt for even looking at a man thinking he was cute. Sex was obviously God’s gift to men since I had painful sex (married) & felt sinful for having to use a vibrator to enjoy sex.

Male, Heterosexual, 39, No longer a member

Masturbation is a no-no. Porn no-no. Sexual Thoughts are = committing adultery. No petting. If you did any of these you needed to confess them to a bishop and aren’t worthy. Because of this, I developed scrupulosity. I’m better now. I was suicidal because I felt that was broken because I couldn’t kick the masturbation and pornography use. I didn’t do that much, but it was enough to make me feel like I was broken. I sought treatment from multiple facets and could never be fixed. So I thought I would be better off by taking my own life. I then learned that the Mormon church hides a lot. Things that had they shared them with me I wouldn’t have developed these suicidal tendencies, depression, and deep anxiety.

Male, Pansexual, 31, No longer a member

The sin of masturbation. Feeling like constantly being surveilled. Afraid to express sexual desires. Not having a healthy sex life by abstaining almost completely even with a spouse. That marriage coming from two people who were very sex inexperienced pre martially and only taught church sex ideology, this resulted in emotional trauma and 15 years in unpleasant bedroom experiences in a passionless marriage that ultimately led to our separation.

Female, Heterosexual, 62, Out 40 years but still on role due to family

Girls are sluts and boys will be boys. I hate that double standard. Plus not feeling confident about talking about sex because it was wrong. Too much modesty taught to girls.

Female, Pansexual, 24, Not attending

I came out as bisexual to my parents because my sister forced me to when she found out. They forced me to go to meetings with the bishop where I learned that “being homosexual is okay, but acting on it is not.” This acknowledges that some people WILL BE BORN HOMOSEXUAL, but if they were to ever follow their heart and love who and how it comes naturally to them, they/we would be punished and seen as sinners in the eyes of God. I was 16 and I had a girlfriend who I loved very much, but the church and my parents made me feel worthless and ashamed of who I was because who I was was a sin. That has had a lasting impact on my self-image, my self worth, my mental health, and being comfortable making relationship decisions for myself. I feel gross about marriage now, because “I’m no longer worthy to enter the temple” and the church and my family always taught that “normie marriage” wasn’t that same and was something to look down your nose at.

Female, Heterosexual, 26, Not attending

Sex is better if you wait for marriage. I was not allowed to be a sexual being. Sexual arousal always made me feel guilty. I was told to be modest, lest I lead the men into temptation. I was 12 when I was first told that.

Female, Heterosexual, 32, Not attending

That I was dirty for having touched myself. The fact that I was abused by another child who taught me to masturbate at 4 years old was completely ignored and I was still ‘punished’ and disfellowshipped for a time. My bishop made me go into detail and made me feel like a terrible person. I carried this shame right into my marriage where for years I felt unworthy of being married to such a good man only to discover 10 years in that he had been struggling with a porn addiction due to similar shaming and experiences in his life. Together we have forgiven, unlearned, healed, and created a safe, vulnerable, and truly authentic space in our marriage.

Female, Heterosexual, 39, No longer a member

My parents never talked to me about sex. They didn’t even talk to me about puberty. As a result, I was very curious and explored things of a sexual nature at a very young age. But I didn’t attend church so I wasn’t receiving any of the teachings around sexual purity or sex as a sin.
I had a boyfriend as a teen who was a very active member of the LDS faith who told me he’d only date me if I went to church and stopped drinking at parties (that part was very much for the best as I was 15 years old).
But he also had no problem with us having oral sex all the way up until he left on an LDS mission. I didn’t start going to church consistently until I met him, so it was very conflicting for me to hear the morality messages I began hearing while also fooling around with him. I felt guilty but didn’t stop what I was doing. I lied about it in bishop’s interviews instead.
I married that boyfriend after he came home from his mission. We fooled around right up until we were sealed in the temple. Not too long into our marriage, he developed a secret habit of viewing pornography while I was sleeping. This crushed my spirit on many levels, but because I had become so “faithful” in my church membership, I chose to continue on with that marriage, though incredibly unhappily. I went on to have four kids with this man who repeatedly told me that if I didn’t have sex with him more often, I was nothing more than a roommate to him.
It took me 16 years to finally file for divorce and at the same time, leave the LDS religion behind. I’ve had to learn a whole new way of life, including embracing a healthy view of sexuality and of sex as something I value and enjoy—not as an obligation or duty or something I have to hide. I’m still learning every day and I am 39 years old.

Female, Heterosexual, 25, No longer a member

That my worth is conditional based upon obedience and sexual attraction. That I should just submit to my husband’s desires and not acknowledge my own. Complete submission to others’ ideas of what sexuality means.

Female, Heterosexual, 37, Not attending

So I typed out a huge reply and it vanished so I’ll sum up. At home sex was never discussed, body shaming was a thing for girls. We were not to touch or look at our own bodies because it was disgusting. Cover up because boys can’t control themselves. YW was the same. No one wanted to be the spoiled fruit, the licked cupcake, the chewed gum. We were the gatekeepers to male sexual purity so we had to be super-virgins before marriage and compliant afterward. We had a whole YW lesson on the male sex drive and how they only stayed in the marriage because of sex. The natural (wo)man was an enemy to god so any natural sexual feeling we had was automatically sinful. I did not date in high school. My father (BP most of my life) is very sexist. We constantly hear that women are silly, can’t be trusted to be alone with men, etc. There was immense pressure to get married in the temple asap. I married my first boyfriend at 19, after knowing him a year. He was older, predatory, and abusive. I got a lot of scripture, temple covenants, etc thrown at me to coerce or force sex. If I did not comply I was causing him to sin. Several times I tried to get help (from church leaders cause that’s the only authority that mattered) and I was told be more obedient, humble, forgiving, etc. After almost 16 years I left him and the church in 2018. My children (2 girls) have been raised with healthy sex education, body positivity, and open, loving communication. This has only gotten better without church influence.

Female, Heterosexual, 19, Attending and non-believer

That you’re supposed to just marry someone you haven’t had any sexual relations with and expect there to be chemistry once you have sex.

Female, Heterosexual, 39, Not attending

Sexual thoughts and feelings were evil. masturbation was cause to talk to the bishop. This caused extreme guilt, self-hate, and self-destruction. Because I wanted to have sex so badly I married the first person who gave me the chance. After 3 years of trying to make our “eternal marriage” work, even while constantly being told that he wasn’t attracted to me, I ended the marriage. I later found out that he is gay and at the time was unwilling to admit it to himself. Had we been able to speak to each other candidly and honestly about sex we could have avoided a whole lot of pain and turmoil. Had I been taught ways to properly express my sexual needs and desires I would have realized that this guy wasn’t attracted to me because I was female, not because of how I looked or who I was. It took me until my late 30’s, even after being happily remarried for more than 10 years, even after having left the church over 7 years prior, to be able to enjoy sex without feeling shame or obligation. I will be turning 40 this year and I feel like I am finally starting to be able to let down my guard, that was built from indoctrinated beliefs, and am finally able to experience the joys and pleasures of sex. Dang, I didn’t even realize how fucked up this topic was (or how fucked up I am in regard to this topic) until I just wrote all of this. Thanks for providing me the opportunity to introspectively respond to your question.

Female, Heterosexual, 29, No longer a member

Modesty, no sex education.

Female, Bisexual, 25, Not attending

I was taught that if my virtue had been compromised that it wouldn’t be fair to my future husband, because he wouldn’t get the full Me. I also heard the chewed gum analogy several times. But then I was uncomfortable at weddings when they would make all the jokes about what happens on a wedding night. It terrified me to ever be naked, let alone have sex. It’s like they teach such extreme abstinence and then expect all that to immediately go away on your wedding night and then it’s full speed ahead motherfucker!!!!

Female, Heterosexual, 27, No longer a member

It’s bad. Never do it. You’re bad if you ever do anything along those lines. Girls should cover up and they are responsible for boys’ thoughts. That one makes my blood boil!

Female, Heterosexual, 46, No longer a member

Sex was dirty and would gain you a quick ticket to hell.

Female, Heterosexual, 25, No longer a member

Sexual thoughts and feelings are bad. Masturbation is a sin.
As a teen, I thought I was the scum of the earth for masturbating and thinking about sex. I went through very dark periods of self-loathing.
As an adult, I’ve been able to flip that narrative and find empowerment in my sexuality.

Female, Homoromantic Asexual, 19, No longer a member

1. Masturbation was disgusting which caused me to shame others and end relationships
2. Gay relationships were wrong, so I forced myself into deeply unhappy straight ones
3. Premarital sex was wrong, so I felt I was used gum after I had been assaulted, and a murderer when I terminated the rapists fetus.

Female, Heterosexual, 38, Attending and nuanced

Lots of shame! Responsibility for men’s thoughts when it came to modesty. I felt like an object to be protect my “virtue” but not seen as an actual human-like person.

Female, Heterosexual, 34, No longer a member

After 12 years of marriage, I still have a hard time feeling comfortable around my husband. I was taught to be private, no experimenting, etc. So now I feel like I’m doing something wrong when the situation gets too hot and heavy. It has led to quite a bit of frustration for both of us.

Female, Heterosexual, 31, No longer a member

As an adult, I sometimes felt remorse for having had sex before marriage (even though it was only with my bow husband). I also remember reading about how some leader said oral sex was immoral and so that made me feel bad, but most of my dysfunctional thoughts and feelings came from my own non-Mormon upbringing.

Female, Heterosexual, 30, Not attending

I was very naive about sexual words or actions but I was blissfully naive. I took pride in my rules that kept me morally clean. I didn’t have an issue transitioning into sex when I got married. I was afraid about dating people who weren’t LDS cause I assumed they had certain expectations. In the early transition phase, I learned more about female sexuality from Mormon Stories and it was very helpful.

Female, Heterosexual, 25, Attending and nuanced

They actually kept me from being raped by a classmate that repeatedly said it was ok because he loved me.

Female, Heterosexual, 35, Not attending

The licked cupcake lesson, that any sexual act or thought was a sin, that my body was shameful and should be covered and was responsible for men’s bad thoughts.

Female, Bisexual, 15, Not attending

After knowing for years I still haven’t come out to my family, I learned sex was horrible and only meant to procreate so when I lost my virginity I felt like I was filthy and I struggled to even tell my closest friends. Even though I didn’t believe the church the beliefs I was raised on will always be like a voice in the back of my head telling me everything about me is wrong.

Female, Heterosexual, 27, Not attending

Youth: My virtue and worthiness depended on having “sexual sins” or lack thereof. Messages of suppression and anti-sex. Heaps Shame and guilt. Heaps of rebellion sexually.
Adult: Past “transgressions” brought shame and resentment Into my marriage from my spouse. Feelings of sexual intimacy obligations.

Female, Heterosexual, 44, Not attending

I was taught sex was bad except within marriage. I had to be morally clean or a “worthy” young man would not want me. Pornography and masturbation were sins. Even kissing before marriage was a sin. I had a boyfriend and became sexually active with him during my senior year in high school. I constantly felt unworthy. I was ashamed and embarrassed and get so much guilt. I was scared to talk to my mom about it because I knew she would be so disappointed in me. There was no one I could go to for advice. I finally decided to go to my bishop and convinced my BF to go as well. We were in the same ward. My BF was excommunicated at age 18. My bishop convinced me to tell my parents. I was terrified so I just wrote a note to my mother. She came to me in tears and asked me how I could do such a thing. There was no conversation about how I was doing. If I was ok if I needed to see a doctor or get help in any way. Just shame and disappointment. My dad won’t say a word to me. The next morning I learned all my little sisters had been told of my indiscretion. They then shamed me and told me how disgusting I was. I moved out of my parent’s house that day. My parents were so distraught that I ruined my opportunity to go to BYU because I was so unworthy. I married my BF and eventually went through the temple and did the whole happy Mormon thing. As an adult, I carried that guilt and shame with me for many many years. It has only been since we left the church that I have been able to let go of that and truly enjoy sex. It has been liberating.

Female, Bisexual, 18, Attending and non-believer

I learned that having premarital or gay sex was one of the worst sins you could ever commit, next to murder. I felt ashamed to want and eventually have a girlfriend. I also felt extremely guilty for any thoughts I had that would go against church teachings. I remember having countless lessons as a young teenager that sex was something to be ashamed of.

Female, Heterosexual, 46, Not attending

As a teen, I had the idea pounded in my heard that sex was dirty and bad. People who had premarital sex were bad, unworthy, unloveable, and should be shunned and judged. I felt dirty having sex with my husband. I hated sex. It was used as a punishment and forced on me at times.

Male, Heterosexual, 60, Not attending

At 12 years old I remember the “masturbation is bad” talk on the stage in the cultural hall with all the Aaronic priesthood boys. I realized I was a bad person that day. I felt deep shame and fear throughout my teenage years. It lasted into My mission and my marriage, cuz if you’re married you wouldn’t do that “sin next to murder”, right? Then there’s that “oral sex is unholy” letter from the 1st presidency in 81, the year we got married. Damn, I felt so guilty. Throughout our marriage, I went back and forth deciding no more vs continue? Having the church in the bedroom is a real buzz kill, to say the least!

Female, Bisexual, 27, No longer a member

I was never an active member however the messages about gender roles and the requirements for women to be meek, obedient baby-making machines are engrained in our local culture. My sex education class at a local public school consisted of a guest speaker passing around a solo cup and instructing each of us to spit into it. This was used as a model for what a woman is like when she has had sex with more than one person. An unclean vessel that no one wants. Modestly culture was used to justify others, including adults, shaming me for wearing shorts or a two-piece bathing suit. This was done to the extent that a boy went into my room and stole my shorts because he deemed them immodest. Modesty culture takes away accountability for men who are taught that they are not in control of their sexual urges and leads to victims of crimes like sexual assault being blamed. I experienced this as a college freshman when I was attacked, sought help, and then was asked, “well what were you wearing”. Due to the impact of the toxic culture supported by the LDS church, I am choosing to move my family away from Utah because I do not want to raise my children here.

Female, Asexual, 29, No longer a member

As a teen, I absorbed a lot of shame and secrecy in the way sex was taught. I accidentally discovered masturbation very young and beat myself up terribly whenever I “transgressed.” I felt too terrified and ashamed to confess it for years, even after I had “overcome,” but it tore me up inside and I felt hot and disgusted every time purity was mentioned. I finally brought it up to a bishop, but he handled it clumsily and seared the shame deep into my soul.
I wasn’t nearly as interested in dating or kissing as my friends, and my thoughts for anything beyond that ranged from academic curiosity to disgust. I thought I was “above sexual temptations” because I had earned those spiritual protections through my obedience to prayer, scripture study, etc. When I started dating seriously, physical intimacy was always awkward but also exciting in a forbidden way. I figured the awkwardness would go away with practice.
On my wedding night, the cultural stoplight switched from red to green abruptly. But the messages that sex was dirty, sinful, and dangerous had been so deeply reinforced that my mind and body could not shift gears. I shook. I tensed. I made my husband turn off the light. There were giggles and hiccups, but also tears and frustration because things just weren’t working out. I had no idea what I was doing. My mom had signed me out of Sex Ed. to do worksheets in the library, so I knew basic anatomy but not much else.
We eventually learned to trust each other and read up on how to do things better, but by then I had developed mild vaginismus and it was obvious that our libidos were on opposite ends of the spectrum. I had learned in Church that love requires sacrifice, that spouses are to share their bodies, that it was up to me to meet my husband’s needs so he wasn’t overcome with temptation. I worked with a sex therapist. I scheduled sex, I bought all the fancy lubes and toys and lingerie, I cleared my mind and focused on foreplay. My husband was so kind and patient through everything. He had fantastic technique, a tender manner, and the gentlest love, and made sure I orgasmed just about every time. “It’s okay, I love you for whatever you can give. Even if it’s not much.”
But afterward, sometimes I would cry silently into my pillow because it was SOOOOO much effort for the reward. I felt like a bad actor, like “sexy me” was not “me” at all. “Fake it till you make it,” they say. I kept waiting to “make it.”
The more I pushed myself, doing as my therapist said, the worse things became. Even things I used to enjoy started to disgust me. One time after making out vigorously, I sneaked into the bathroom and tried not to let him hear me vomiting. I didn’t get it. I loved him. He loved me. Our relationship was otherwise awesome. We were doing all the right things- things that should have fixed me. So WHY were they getting worse?!
I sank into a really dark place. I barely held it together in class long enough to make it to the bathroom, where I sobbed in bewilderment trying to figure out the trigger. I sat on the couch staring at the walls, blinded by a heavy pain in my chest. I lost interest in eating, in running, in schoolwork. My grades fell. I saw the only other boy I had ever loved taking his new wife on the kinds of adventures we used to enjoy, and I wondered if I was being punished for choosing my husband over him. I picked holes in my skin and watched the blood pool, banged rocks on my shins to try to make the pain on the outside match the pain on the inside. I stopped writing in my journal because every entry turned into “Why am I in this much pain? How can I end it?”
Antidepressants helped lift me out of the darkness a little, but they also became a new thing to blame. Endless medication changes, hormone tests, diet and exercise adjustments, different therapists, and types of therapy… I learned a lot, and my husband was beside me the whole way, but it always came back to the same old problem.
Me: “I wish it could just be okay for me to… not have sex. But that’s so unfair to you… At least I’ll be fixed in the next life.”
Him: “*sigh* … I can’t wait that long.”
And so we reached an uneasy compromise: he would masturbate to take the pressure off of me, and I would initiate when I was ready. He was also heavily shamed for masturbation in his youth but had been able to process those feelings and come to an understanding that it was just something he needed to do to take care of his body.
Things improved drastically after that. Which bewildered me, because I’d always been taught that masturbation and pornography destroyed marriages. Yet, in moderation, it was the key to making our marriage work? How could God be so against something that increased our quality of life and made our marriage a much happier one? I was confused, but grateful things had taken a turn for the better.
One day, my husband sent me an article about asexuality out if the blue. “Hey, I’ve heard you say some of these exact things. Looks like I have some accepting to do. Remember, I love you no matter what.”
It was like a lightning bolt. I walked around for several days feeling detached, numb, shocked, reading everything I could about asexuality. It explained everything. And best of all: I wasn’t broken. I never had been. What a relief! A laughing, crying, colors-are-more-vivid-than-ever-before, has-the-sun-always-been-this-bright? relief. And he felt relieved, too. It’s not that I didn’t love him, or that he wasn’t attractive, or that he wasn’t doing enough. It’s just a core part of who I am. I’m not broken. I never was.
And if I’m not actually broken, then what does that say about the people insisting that I am? I tried to change my orientation, and it nearly cost me my life. I suddenly understood how my LGBT friends felt. I suddenly saw how deeply harmful the Church’s stance is that LGBT people are simply defective heterosexuals who will be fixed in the next life. And if they were wrong about that, what else were they wrong about?
I finally allowed myself to look at the Church objectively and was shocked by what I found. I had justified sooo many uncomfortable things by saying, “but it’s okay because he’s called of God.” Without that qualifier, I realized that the structure and doctrines of the Church (especially regarding worthiness and power) leave people open to abuse and be abused. I saw exactly where my unhealthy martyr mindset had come from. I saw how shame could be used to manipulate and control. I saw how needlessly straight and narrow the Covenant Path was, and I was not surprised that it had almost suffocated me. I walked away, and it was the hardest and most liberating thing I have ever done.
Now, our marriage (and my mental health) is better than ever. I’ve learned not to “yuck someone else’s yum” and to have fun with my body and my husband. I’ve learned to set boundaries and honor myself instead of pushing to meet external expectations. I’ve learned that there is no one way to do things, that people and relationships don’t fit in boxes, that it’s nobody else’s business. It’s been quite a journey. The world is no longer divided into good and bad or forbidden and commanded. It’s richer and more varied than I ever could have imagined. When it comes to sex, and everything else, there is no “one right way.” What a relief.

Female, Heterosexual, 22, Occasionally go with my husband because he believes

Just constant guilt for being physical before marriage.

Trans femme and slightly demi queer boi, Queer, 32, Not attending

In YM I had bishops talk about repentance and they’d bring “repenting” men that had engaged in sex to talk to us about the atonement to scare us off. But also heard how you basically get 2 freebies and it’s less bad if you’re under 16
The focus on gender binary was ridiculous. Telling us when scriptures said men it didn’t mean women to rationalize sexism.
So when it was a sin to lust after a woman even in thought. Thought was the same as action. Action worse than murder. So I rationalized men were not there
Focus on sex being P in V made it so other teens I knew engaged in unsafe oral and ask sex without it being ” sex” or the law of chastity
So weirdly I felt a pressure to “experiment” with men before I was 16
One freebie to get out of the way and still go on a mission and I thought then put it behind me LMAO
This led to an unsafe sexual encounter with a kid from my ward that left me devastated.
After my mission, I would play with other men without penetration and would have them fuck my closed thighs thinking it was somehow not sex
This led to shady and unsafe hookups in the dark with strangers rather than safe protected sex with people I dated
Didn’t really date healthy because of the Bible code and church
Was forced to unsafe secrecy which breeds abuse from older men.

Male, Heterosexual, 25, Attending and nuanced

Sex was to be saved until you were married. I never learned what sex really was or entailed which is fine. It’s not a church’s responsibility to teach the intricacies of sex. That’s a parent’s job. This led me to be more respectful of women than many of my high school peers. That translated into adulthood as well.

Male, Gay, 30, Not attending

The church’s views on homosexuality negatively impacted me to a large degree as a teen. As an adult, I have been able to accept my sexuality and move beyond the negative views instilled by the church.

Male, Heterosexual, 33, Not attending

I was always taught that sex before marriage was bad. Pretty much anything outside of kissing outside of marriage was bad. I tried my best but often fell short and was always riddled with guilt and shame. When I lost my virginity I wasn’t married and that really messed with me and still does.

Female, Heterosexual, 39, No longer a member

The chewed gum analogy. That it was better to die than to be raped and survive. I felt incredible guilt and shame for normal sexual behavior like masturbation. I wish I would have been open to having more sexual experiences as a young adult especially before marriage so I could have made sure we were compatible in that way.

Female, Heterosexual, 39, Not attending

I was always taught sex is for marriage only and that it actually wasn’t that great. I was taught, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? CAN YOU SAY OBJECTIFICATION! Yikes. I was taught that sex before marriage was something to be ashamed of and a weakness, a failure of a sort. I was taught my value as a woman and my future spouse depended on my virtue.
As a teen I lost my virginity at 15 and then felt so guilty I went to my bishop and he said I should go to my parents. Then I stopped caring and slept with a lot of guys. I was date raped at 16 or 17 and blamed myself because I shouldn’t have been drinking and been immodest. I told him no multiple times and finally gave in so he’d finish and leave me alone. I think I’d only talked to him a couple of times. I don’t remember anything after giving in. But again, it was all my fault, I thought.
Then around 20 I started getting active in the church again and felt guilty and repented. I was disfellowshipped. Then I slipped up a couple of times and didn’t tell because I was so afraid of getting in more trouble but that made me feel even more guilty. Fast forward to 26 and I’m engaged and my bishop said if we even kissed with tongue, he wouldn’t allow us to go to the temple. I felt that was ridiculous so I moved out of that ward. Sex was never about pleasure while I was married to my ex. It was what I was supposed to do for my husband and I hated it and I felt raped all the time. It got worse as he looked at porn more and more and I could only think of what the church said about it being evil and it created hurt and resentment. Eventually, he cheated and we got divorced.
A year later I met my now boyfriend, an ex-Mormon, of almost 2 years and he is so respectful of my body. He asks permission, he doesn’t bat an eye at anything I would not like to do no matter how far into things we’ve got. I feel safe and loved and respected and valued. I now see how wonderful sex can be and how much it can help in your relationship with your partner and yourself. I wish I’d known how healthy sex can be when used with the right intentions. One night stand, open relationship, monogamy…it’s all beautiful when you do it because it makes you happy, not because it’s what you should do or are doing because your value and eternal life depend on it.

Female, Heterosexual, 23, Not attending

I felt guilty for being attracted to someone or kissing my boyfriend and getting turned on.

Female, Heterosexual, 28, No longer a member

I’m a piece of gum and no one wants a chewed piece of gum. Save yourself.
My value and worth were tied to how “pure” I was. If I masturbated or had sex I didn’t have value or worth.
The messages the church put out about women’s sexuality is incredibly damaging. I never believed, so thankfully I didn’t care and these messages didn’t stick. These messages haven’t impacted my relationships with myself or with others. But I do know women who feel guilty or sinful fit sleeping with their husband (Mormon) because they took these messages to heart. The church wanted females to not be sexual creatures at all. Well, until they get married… But you can’t just shut off human nature like that and when you do, it’s really hard to turn back on.

Female, Heterosexual, 23, Not attending

I was very reserved and guilty about masturbation and going “too far” with boys in high school. I was so sick of being reserved when I turned 18, that I became somewhat sexually deviant. I did not practice safe sex and I have sex mostly to the rice to myself that someone loved me. After leaving, sex doesn’t have that power over me.

Female, Heterosexual, 31, Not attending

I learned that if I dressed immodestly it was my fault a boy was addicted to porn. I was taught to suppress all feelings of sexuality until I left the temple sealed. I was sinning if I had any thought or acted on anything sexual. It left me feeling guilty, ashamed and left with so many questions. My parents never discussed anything about sex, just that I wasn’t allowed to have it. So by the time I got married I had no clue how it all worked. My mom also reported me to a Bishop at 17 because she caught my boyfriend and I on the couch one night making out. It was one of the worst moments to be forced to talk to someone about something so personal and it wasn’t even my own choice. I also hadn’t done anything wrong. I have a daughter of my own now and I still struggle with how I want to teach her about sexuality. So much about the church still lingers and I have to retrain myself constantly when I feel those old triggers pop up. It has a horrible lasting impact and it’s so wrong the way they go about it.

Female, Heterosexual, 37, No longer a member

I learned that sexuality is wrong…plain and simple. My parents never talked about sex, it was taboo, and even having my period was secretive. I was “sweet 16 and never been kissed”. I loved making out and being touched by guys in high school and college and wanted to have sex, but I was scared to death that I’d end up pregnant, even though I wasn’t having sex. I knew that would be the most shameful thing that could happen to a bishop’s family. The night before I got married my mom asked me if I knew what was going to happen on my wedding night. I just shook my head and told her I could figure it out. My marriage has had a terrible sex life. We have gone years at some points without having sex. I don’t make sex a priority and it still feels like something that isn’t spoken about. Since I left the church, our sex life is a little more normal, but nothing like I dream it could be. It feels so complicated and like it’s something on a to-do list. I want so badly for it to feel natural, fun, and something I look forward to.

Female, Bisexual, 51, Not attending

If you weren’t married in the temple, then sex was wrong. Then when I married outside of the temple, I was never able to truly let go and have an orgasm with my husband.

Female, Heterosexual, 35, Not attending

As a teen, I was only taught about abstinence. A friend of mine had sex, told our bishop and then miraculously they were having a whole meeting about sex before marriage at 3rd-hour Sunday school. A 17-year-old, brand new BRIDE who was just in young women with us telling us that her temple marriage at 17 was what she waited for her whole life. Her parents signed her away to get married at 17. Ew. I never went back as a teen. I went back as an adult thinking maybe this was right. I dated a Mormon guy, was raped by him, then dated a very nice Mormon guy who I confided in about the rape and he dumped me for being “unclean”. I went on to serve a mission, left early because I hated it…every minute was awful. Met my husband on a blind date and he isn’t a member, fell in love. I decided to try church again and once I realized my upcoming marriage to a wonderful man was seen as sad because he wasn’t a member I left and carried on. Years later we tried again together and it was ok… but then the treatment of my son by bored housewives who believe in perfection from children, the church’s stance on LGBTQ rights and I was OUT. For good. I should have been when I was a child but I didn’t have the fire I have now.

Female, Bisexual, 35, No longer a member

I was taught that sex is shameful. That as a woman I was responsible for men’s sexual thoughts and actions. That homosexuality was not only sinful but disgusting. I learned that my place was based on my ability to find a mate and have children. Which meant that I needed to be desirable to the opposite sex. This led to severe self-esteem problems. I based my worth on the attention I received from the opposite sex. This also led to being in uncomfortable situations and feeling helpless to say no. I have been very confused about my own sexuality for most of my life. As an adult, I have a lot of shameful feelings about sex, desire, pleasure, and my body in general.

Female, Bisexual, 31, No longer a member

I felt shame all the time for being sexually attracted to anyone or thinking about sex. I felt dirty and like I was worthless. The shame around it all also kept me from truly understanding who I am for a long time.

genderfluid, Queer, 16, Not attending

acting on homosexual feelings is sinful, which led to internalized homophobia.

Male, Heterosexual, 30, Not attending

The “For Strength of Youth” was pushed hard when I was a kid. Sexual sin was next to murder (and the last time I checked, it still says that) so every time I masturbated or looked at porn as a teenager, I would immediately get down on my knees and ask for forgiveness from God. I knew my repentance attempts were futile as I still needed to go confess to the bishop which the thought of it was so scary and embarrassing. It made me feel dirty, I wasn’t as righteous as my friends and couldn’t control myself. I would try so hard to control my thoughts as they teach us to do so I would really beat myself up if I failed to control impure thoughts. I wish someone would have told me I wasn’t dirty or sinning, that this is common normal teenage behavior. Instead, talking about it was taboo and I never got one positive response about it. It hurt me to the core so much that on my mission I was harrowed up with immense guilt and shame as I had looked at porn one more time after confessing but didn’t go back to confess it as I didn’t want to tell a bishop that kind of stuff in an office…alone again! So for my whole mission, I felt like I hadn’t been repentant thus felt that God would make the language harder for me to learn, the blessings I gave people wouldn’t work, and that I wouldn’t have the spirit. I kept looking for loopholes such as preaching the gospel covers up a multitude of sins but then the “spirit” would tell me it’s still not enough. I was so scared that my mission president would send me home.
I carried this trauma to my adult life and has made the transition out of the church difficult as it still feels like it has a grip over my sexuality. I’m trying to work through that fear that God will punish me or that bad things will happen to me even if I engage in porn and masturbation consensually with my partner. I’ll often obsess over it and feel like I need to confess to someone even though I don’t believe it anymore. It’s been really hard and still weeks of therapy ahead to work through it. It’s a good thing my therapist is an amazing person and a great listener.

Female, Bisexual, 32, Not attending

That sex before marriage was next to murder, that’s how serious it was. I thought, as a teen, that pre-marital sex was basically unforgivable. So when I had sex when I was 19, I thought I was gone, lost.
As I got older I learned that’s not true.
I learned that the only righteous way to be was heterosexual. So when I, a female, fell in love with a girl on my soccer team, I was surrounded by feelings of self-loathing, shame, guilt. I felt like something was wrong with me. No one in the church had any sympathy for queer people, they pretended they didn’t exist. I felt dirty and alone.

Male, Heterosexual, 47, No longer a member

I felt I was wicked as a youth for masturbating. I learned it was a bad thing from a bishop interview at 12. The domineering priesthood interviews were manipulating, shame-inducing, and guilt lead. As a teenager, I had low self-esteem. As an adult, it affects me in my career when speaking with upper management. I have anxiety that I deal with on a daily basis. Mormonism has stolen my confidence when dealing with people of authority in my job. I honestly hate Mormonism and all it represents. It is a cult. I’m reluctant to speak with any Reverend, pastor, Minister ever again about personal things. I don’t tithe to any church. My job gives me many opportunities to give to those in need. I’ve learned the truth about who God is from the Bible. I also have learned that repentance and being right with God as simple as the Bible says it is. I think the Bible is true, not entirely sure thou. Mormonism makes a relationship with God impossible. Then again they worship and exalted humans that practice polygamy.

Male, Heterosexual, 30, Not attending

The “Law of Chastity” as it was taught to me prohibited any sexual activity outside of marriage, and that sexual urges were “temptations” to sin. This made puberty more awkward than it already was, and made me feel guilty for every sexual thought or feeling I ever had. My parents gave me “the talk” but it was lacking, so I turned to the Internet for information. I found what I needed to know there, but got a porn addiction in the process. Between the porn, masturbation, and general teenage horniness, I always felt like there was something wrong with me, that I was cursed with these “sinful” urges. This essentially stunted my sexual maturation, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, I essentially got married as the only option to pursue sexuality without “spiritual death”. My wife and I have had the same struggle with the church stunting our sexual growth, and eventually coming to the realization that we probably would have been better off and mentally healthier without the church’s influence. Our relationship was based on sex and Mormon temple talk, eternal families and eternal progression and all that, and when you lose your faith, all that kind of goes out the window and you realize you got eternal-married for what could have been a simple fun fling in normal non-Mormon life. Our marriage has struggled because of these things and leaving the church has allowed us to truly discover who we really are and what we really want in life, which isn’t the Peter-priesthood & Molly-Mormon with their perfect primary children family unit that we’ve tried to have so far. It’s like “buyer’s remorse” but for your entire life up to this point, but we couldn’t help it because we were raised “knowing the truth” until we discovered reality. And now we’re probably going to get divorced, on good enough terms, but it’s still hard for us and the kids. If only we didn’t feel so guilty for healthy sexual practices while growing up. And if only the church hadn’t made my parents too shy to give “the talk” properly, I probably wouldn’t have gotten a porn addiction while trying to understand the human body and sex.

Female, Heterosexual, 26, Attending and non-believer

First and foremost, sex is BAD outside of marriage, but even then, sexual feelings and desires are inappropriate. It took me a long time to be comfortable in my sexual relationship with my husband, and its still hard sometimes to be open about desires and needs because it feels taboo to talk about.

Female, Asexual, 37, Not attending

Oh, where do I start? Sex education was never discussed at church or in Mormon homes. You are told to only marry the opposite gender, in the temple, as soon as you find your eternal companion and multiply and replenish the earth. No greater sin besides murder is that of having sexual relations outside of marriage. I had no clue about anything. I had to learn it from my friends and even until college I never even knew much of anything sexual bc the church forbids even thinking about it. Birth control was never discussed and that could be the reason I got pregnant with a boyfriend at the age of 23. I was a virgin and he was older. I ended up keeping my baby and not marrying the father. I now am married happily with three more children. Anyway, I remember thinking how could sex be so negative after all? It is a fun part of nature and you can’t defy nature. The Strength of Youth pamphlet was a bunch of bogus. I had no clue what masturbation even was since you were always taught never to touch or pleasure anyone or anything before marriage. It is a really negative aspect of the church and the main reason the members get married so young in my opinion is purely only to have sex. Now that my eyes have been opened, I have regrets for not having sex several times before marriage with several partners. Ok maybe not several but a few would have been fun. It is just a natural part of life and it should not be a negative aspect. Purity for marriage can be fine for some but sex shouldn’t be the reason for marriage at such a young age. I had no experience ever with LGBTQ in my situation but I can only imagine how awful these people feel growing up under the church’s rules of sexual orientation, etc. I may not be able to change the past but I definitely Have better options to give to my kids for their future. They will not be influenced by the church’s bogus about sexual anything! So destruction and so limiting/controlling. Very negative.

Mostly denial but slightly gender fluid., Heterosexual, 23, No longer a member

Lots of judgment and rules.

Male, Heterosexual, 21, No longer a member

“Sex is bad and dirty and disgusting, so save it for the person you’re gonna marry.” Otherwise, it was never discussed.

Male, Heterosexual, 22, No longer a member

I learned that discovering my sexuality, masturbating, and feeling sexually attracted was from the devil. As a teen, I often thought that Satan had great power over me and I was caught in the cycle of “sinning” feeling a lot of shame, trying to repent, but “sin” again. I thought I was the “weakest” member ever. When I got a little bit more intimate with a girl once, I thought I committed such a great sin, that it would be too hard to ever repent from it. As an adult, I kept feeling shame for being sexually attracted. I keep having the feeling that it is weak to have sexual feelings and that I am weak in that sense.

Female, Lesbian, 28, No longer a member

I was taught that the only right way to have a relationship was between a man and a woman, sealed in the temple. I had picked up on all the social cues so even as a kid I knew that talking about how strongly I felt towards girls was not ok. So I wrote it off as friendship and focused on the charismatic boys who’s personalities caught my eye. I was allowed to learn about sex ed in school, and I got a short lecture from my parents when I was 11, but the topic of sex was mostly avoided and really stigmatized. So when I discovered for myself what masturbating was I had no idea what was going on, just that I had done something ‘horrible’. I remember thinking I had a serious problem because I enjoyed it, and felt extra terrible any time they would talk about it in church because they only assumed boys were doing it. I was convinced that I was the only girl who had this ‘problem’. I was also in complete denial of my sexuality until I was 26 because being gay was so villainized within the church. I was terrified to admit it to myself. I think I was able to hide it from myself for so long because I had been living a double life ever since I first discovered sexual feelings at 12 years old. I essentially split myself into ‘spiritual’ me and ‘sexual’ me so I could comfortably participate in church and the overwhelming guilt would only come sometimes. For the past two years, I have been deprogramming myself of all the unhealthy attitudes towards sex and sexuality I grew up with. It’s been a slow process, but I am so much better now than I ever was before!

Female, Heterosexual, 34, Not attending

To be modest, I must cover up (to help boys not think about sex), all sexual feelings are bad feelings as a teen – leading to shame while going through normal sexual development. As an adult, it was hard to flip a switch once married. Felt embarrassment and shame for many years and felt the burden was mine to make sure my husband didn’t look at porn or other women. With many years of intentional work, I have made immense progress but there are still struggles left from growing up in the church.

Female, Heterosexual, 21, No longer a member

Sex and sexuality are evil! Not think about it, don’t look at something that relates to that, everyone that has sex bevor marriage is evil and lustful. Sex was the biggest sin just nearly as bad as murder. LGBTQ’s are a trend and that they just convince themself that they are part of this community and that you can change it by choice. But when you marry you have to love sex and want sex and have sex that allows you to feel the Holy Ghost?!
So I married last year. It was still wonderful but before my wedding, my two older brothers outed themselves as gay. It was a biiig shock! And nearly my whole deeply believing family left the church. It was soooo hard for me. What should I think about it? The church says that I couldn’t support my two brothers but I freaking wanted to. I thought I am losing my whole family. But I wanted to be with my husband. I was sooo afraid of the temple Endowment. I didn’t want to do that. My family told some scary stories about it and I was crying a lot. But I wanted to marry my love. I thought I had to sacrifice my own feelings, my family, and my body. I didn’t want the garments but I wanted to be with my husband forever. Such a harmful dilemma in the church. So I gut married. Only my dad could come to my wedding in the temple. I loved the civil wedding so much more. The wedding in the temple was somehow boring and the big high experience that others promised you weren’t there. But I still kept believing in the church. I was sooo afraid to have sex. And it hurt a lot..still to this day it hurt. It is the only problem in our marriage. And I don’t feel as much lust or the desire to have sex. My husband was so hurt because he thought it was because of him. But I couldn’t change it. I cried a lot. I thought I was losing him and had to pretend that I was enjoying it but we openly talked about it. But I always had to cry because I wanted to change it but I couldn’t. Then I thought that I was maybe asexual. I just suffered from the fact that I believed my whole life that sex is evil. And it was so hard to change it. Still to this day, it is hurting. I try my best to get to know more about this topic and change my beliefs about it but it takes slow steps.
My husband and I left the church after reading the CES letter after nearly one year of marriage. I was sooo afraid. And after he came to me with his shocked face, I thought I was losing everything. We cried; we couldn’t believe; we were afraid, hurt, and angry. It was sooooo hurtful and then I got a panic attack. I thought life had no meaning that I lose everything and lastly myself. I couldn’t believe it but it was so clear. And after only two days we had to realize that we lived or whole life in a lie and that the church took nearly everything from us. Our feelings, our time, our family, our opinions, our bodies, our sight of the world, our friends, our teenage years, our own beliefs. It was traumatic. But we left the church. Now we are free. I never felt so free and independent in my life. I now question all my beliefs and it was at first such a scary feeling but now it is so emancipating! I nearly healed my depressions and OCD. I love my life! Everything has changed but it was the best thing that could happen to me and my husband. I can now truly support my two brothers and I will always open my mouth for them. It still hurt when I sleep with my husband but we are on our way and try other techniques. I have to truly get to know myself first. The church took a lot from me, but it couldn’t get my life. I am free now. Free to live my life now and to love and be myself. I am happy. Like never bevor.

Genderqueer, Bisexual, 26, No longer a member

Anything beyond a man and a woman having a family was wrong. Women aren’t supposed to feel sexual joy.

Male, Gay, 29, No longer a member

That anything that wasn’t heteronormative was sinful. Pleasure is carnal desire. The natural self, being in itself, cannot be healthy enjoyed. We are to ignore our bodies through abstinence and fasting and thus increase our spiritual capacity.
I grew up having less empowerment than other teens did because of this lack of channeled curiosity and attendant discoveries.
I feel shallow whenever I channel sexuality or seek pleasure for its own sake. I struggle to find meaning or validity in pursuing pleasure and balancing that with commitment. I rely on other’s perspectives because my inner compass is screwed up, when I feel dissatisfied, IDK how to trust myself.

Female, Asexual, 19, No longer a member

I learned that if I had any sexual encounter before I was married than I was less valuable. Men were given a small warning, women were humiliated. My best friend and her boyfriend started to become sexual in their relationship, and the bishop told her boyfriend that he just needed to go home and pray about it. But he kept my friend from taking the sacrament for over a month and publicly humiliated and shamed her. We were told that learning anything about our sexuality was only allowed to happen with our husbands after we are married. Even if it was simply trying to understand who we were as people! Not even having sex! We couldn’t even ask questions and receive helpful answers about sexuality and how it related to the world and to the gospel.
I was told that because I was sexually assaulted, I had lost part of myself and needed to start a repentance process. It’s taken a lot of hard work to recover because the only sexual encounter I have ever had was forceful and wasn’t consensual, but the only ‘support’ or messages I received from the church only continued the notion that it was my fault and that I was to blame. I wasn’t allowed to talk about it or ask questions. I was taught that it’s a man’s right to do whatever he wants to his wife or children. And many members of the church (including bishops, stake presidents, and other church leaders) knew about the abuse for years and either didn’t care or told me and my mother that we were being disobedient to the man of the house and therefore disobedient to God. My entire idea of anything to do with sexuality or sex was manipulated by those I thought I could trust.

Female, Pansexual, 26, Not attending

I felt like even having the desire to masturbate made me wicked and evil. I would do it and then immediately after pray and say things like “I hate myself, I know you hate me too, I can’t stop, I’m sorry there’s something wrong with me.”
As I dated as an adult it was very unclear what is and isn’t okay. Some men I dated would barely kiss me or touch my shoulders, others would ask me to straddle them. Some of my friends engaged in oral sex and would say “it’s only a small sin” or “it’s only a sin if one of you orgasms.” I was very confused and worried about how much sexual freedom I would have even in marriage.

Genderqueer, Bisexual, 24, No longer a member

Sexuality was shameful. I was shamed if my clothing became too sexual (ie a skirt that became too short after a growth spurt). I was shamed when my clothing wasn’t flattering enough when my queer pubescent self tried to experiment with dressing more masculine, like wearing greaser style clothes and boxers. I would receive compliments on a particular shirt on one Sunday, and then the next Sunday my dad would tell me I couldn’t wear it again because Brother So-and-So suggested it was too low-cut. In Sunday School and Young Women’s, even “heavy petting” or making out were “floodgates” to sexual activity. This was definitely reinforced by my parents, who thought they were doing the right thing. My dad in particular was obsessed with my appearance. I find that creepy now because when I look back so much of my dad’s behavior was only virtue signaling without any real personal conviction behind it – why drag your kids into your BS? Now I definitely understand that experimentation, self-exploration, and knowledge are empowering and make for safer, more satisfying sex. How on earth are folks supposed to go from abstinence-only to sex on the reg just because they’re married?! sounds like a recipe for trauma. anyways, I left the church when I left for college. I held, and still hold, shame around my sex life. After being so conditioned that my body is the source of men’s sinful desires and that MY sexuality as a bisexual queer person is evil I still freeze up before/during sex. It’s difficult to feel like a Sexual Being because I still subconsciously have this part of me that plays Mormon Gatekeeper to my sexual identity. It’s gotten SO much easier with therapy, and I still wish I had just felt the freedom to have sex with whomever I wanted instead of setting this unattainable goal of purity for myself even after leaving the church.

Female, Heterosexual, 42, Attending and non-believer

Next to Murder.

Female, Lesbian, 28, No longer a member

Sexuality is evil unless it is between a husband and wife. Even then, it should be vaginal and not include any toys or porn or anything.
I felt very guilty as a teen for my sexual urges and felt I had a serious masturbation addiction. I spoke with my bishops about that and other things I did and looking back that was so inappropriate. Makes me angry. There was one instance in particular when a bishop just stared at me and didn’t say anything. I was expecting to be forgiven or something but he seemed so shocked by what I did that he didn’t know what to do. I felt so much shame and guilt around that for years.
As an adult, I find that guilt and shame are associated with sexuality for me now. Not that I feel guilty or shame when I’m sexual, but sometimes it can be hard to climax without imagining something that makes me feel feelings of guilt or shame.

Female, Heterosexual, 25, No longer a member

“Mormonism, Rape Culture, and Me”, 2015

I was taught that I had to cover up my body to avoid distracting or tempting men. That women, not men, were responsible for the protection of “virtue.” That simply by existing with female anatomy, I was inherently a temptress. That my body needed to stay “pure” because it wasn’t my own, it was the property of my future husband, it was territory to be conquered and should remain untouched to please him. That it was his and his alone to stake his flag on. That I would be considered “damaged goods” the moment I was touched outside of marriage. Damaged goods: merchandise that’s value or usefulness has been impaired.
I was taught that I was not a human being, but a commodity. That my ability to give a man children, to pass along his name and his blood, to be a wife and a mother, was my sole calling. That I wasn’t good enough or whole and lacked purpose on my own. That my place was in the home and not the real world. That I should feel ashamed for being selfish enough to ask for more out of life than being a housewife. That forgoing an education to raise a Mormon family was not only normal but praise-worthy.
I was taught that I was not welcome to participate in my faith if my shoulders or midriff or thighs were showing. That the protection of men’s thoughts was more important than my participation or spiritual education. That the clothes on my body were more important than the thoughts in my head or the feelings in my heart. And most importantly, that I would only have myself to blame should I experience unwanted advances.
I was taught that because I was a daughter of God, I had value. That my worth came from belonging to a man floating up in the clouds. Not because I was a human being who deserved respect but because I was the property of a patriarch.
I was taught that men were supposed to be in charge and that women were to obey in silence and without question. Men held callings of power. Men made the decisions. Men handled the finances and records. Men held the keys. Men had the priesthood, “direct power” from god. I quickly realized that by the age of 12, boys officially had more power than any woman in the church.
I was taught that I automatically owed a young man a date or a dance or my time, simply because he wanted it. That I would be shamed for saying “no” or denying his advances if I was not interested because I somehow owed him my attention. I was taught that his needs and desires were paramount and that my own were unimportant. These lessons were so deeply engrained that I would be unable to recognize my own experiences of sexual violence until long after they had taken place.
I was taught that from the age of 12 onwards, it was normal to be locked alone in a room with the most “powerful” man in our congregation’s elaborate social hierarchy. That it was normal for that adult man to ask a child questions about their body, sexuality, and sexual experiences. That it was normal for him to pose invasive, sexually explicit questions because he was a direct representative of God and needed to determine my “worthiness” to participate in faith-based activities and rituals.
I look back now and understand that these regular meetings established 4 of the 6 stages of child grooming. I look back now and see exactly how they, along with the harmful lessons I was taught as a girl and young woman, lead directly to years of confusion, pain, abuse, and trauma. I look back now and want to wrap my terrified younger self in a warm hug and tell her she’ll get out of there someday, despite the fact that she’s never felt more trapped in her entire life.
I was taught in a fundamentally misogynistic institution that perpetuated rape culture. That victim-blamed. That led me to believe that men’s desires were more important than the preservation of my dignity, comfort, or self-esteem. That encouraged my sexualization but denied me control of my own sexuality. That taught me that my body was not my own and that my existence had more to do with what could be taken from me than what I could freely give.

Female, Heterosexual, 25, No longer a member

That my virginity was the most important thing, that if I violated the law of chastity then I would need a man to stand between me and Jesus because that was too big a sin for me to approach Jesus with, that my worth aka worthiness depended on my virginity.

Female, Asexual, 28, No longer a member

Shame. And if you indulged at all in addressing those NATURAL feelings you were a disgrace. My family disowned me when they knew I had been sexually active. Which has caused me to be ashamed of my sexual side for many years until recently. My first sexual experience led me to find out I had severe endometriosis so in all reality it was a HUGE blessing that I did.

Female, Heterosexual, 34, Not attending

That my worth was based on my sexuality at all. That I could do something that would make God angry with me, really messes with your head.

Female, Heterosexual, 35, No longer a member

I just never agreed. If I ever broke the law of chastity I went and repented because that’s what you did. I thought I felt bad because of what I was doing, but I wasn’t. I never really saw anything wrong. It felt good. It felt natural. But mixed the negative feelings of being treated poorly by men in the church who would then make it seem like what we did wasn’t in our control and it was my fault with spiritual guilt.

Female, Pansexual, 42, No longer a member

I spent most of my teenage years suicidal and thinking I was a horrible person because I was sexually active. I was taught that sexual sin is next to murder and that thoughts are the same as doing something so yeah I’ve struggled with poor self-worth and shame for being taught I was pretty much a murderer.

Female, Heterosexual, 34, No longer a member

I learned sex should only be between a man and a woman, and should only be with your spouse after marriage. Anything else is unacceptable and you are breaking a covenant with G-d. You are dirty and not pure. How will you get married, let alone married in the Temple, etc. I was told on dates I should only kiss a boy like I would my sibling until I get married. This left me extremely confused. The dirty part made me feel guilty after I had sexual experiences, for well over a decade. Finally, my husband who did not grow up in the church helped me to view sexual experiences differently. Even though I wasn’t a virgin on our wedding night and my family knew this, I felt guilty and self-conscious that people knew we were intimate now. I know this thought stems from what I was taught in the Church, or more specifically Church culture. It is crazy to hear how sexuality was taught in my husband’s faith (Conservative Judaism) compared to what we were taught. Black and white.

Female, Lesbian, 26, Not attending

I was taught homosexuality was wrong. In the culture, I judged and stared at homosexual people as a kid. I never thought I would be one of them as I was a good little Mormon girl. I specifically remember degrading comments made. When Portia and Ellen got married “buut she’s so pretty,” Said negatively why a pretty woman would be gay? As an adult, I honestly feel like a life with a woman isn’t a complete life. And I am not straight. I love women. Deep down I can’t help but feel having a wife and children isn’t good for me. Don’t get me wrong I love and support LGBTQ people and families. I’m one of them! I just feel I would want my children to have a mom and dad. Not mom and mom. I wish I didn’t feel this way. But growing up Mormon and those ideas in my head it still has affected me as an adult. If I was straight I would want kids and a family. Being gay I just see myself being with a woman… this is hard to admit but I feel like I would be selfish bringing a child into my lesbian relationship. Like it wouldn’t be good for them I know this is not true. But deep down I think this.

Female, Bisexual, 23, No longer a member

As a child, I was taught that if I dressed immodestly, I would cause impure thoughts in the men around me, I would show the world that I had no self-esteem, or I would be raped. Because of this fear, I became obsessive about being intensely modest: I wore knee-length shorts with my one-piece bathing suit, a t-shirt under my school’s track tank top, and skirts that fell far past my calves in hopes of keeping the male-dominated environment around me safe. But I was raped anyway. I was taught that it was my job to set sexual boundaries with males since they could not control their bodies when aroused, but my male partners did not listen to my boundaries despite my very clear verbal boundaries. As a teenager, I blamed myself anytime my boundaries were violated because I did not have any understanding of consent; to make it worse, anytime I talked to a parent or bishop, I was told to repent for my sins after intense questioning about my sexual activities. And I felt extreme guilt anytime I wanted to have consensual sex since females were not supposed to be sexual.
I also felt that I was groomed to be married–to any Mormon male–from early childhood. As a child, I was given cards, flowers, and chocolates on mother’s day since I would one day inevitably be a mother and produce children for Heavenly Father. I was taught that marriage and being a mother would be my crowning achievement for humanity. This is deeply disturbing to me now as I am in a career devoted to reducing poverty and systemic inequality, but to my family, I will likely never be more than someone who gave up the blessing of being a Mormon mother.
As an 18-year-old wife, I was deeply dissatisfied with my sexual life. I couldn’t orgasm for a year of marriage, and my now ex-husband did not take time to research or try to understand how damaging our husband-focused-sex was for me. I knew nothing about how to pleasure my body, what I liked, how to masturbate, or how to communicate what I needed during sex. I felt guilty for wanting to know these things. This was likely due to a childhood of never seeing or discussing what consensual sex actually looks like despite my parents being more open about sex than many of my peers.
Of course, perhaps the most damaging piece is that I ignored my own bisexuality–at least the part that was attracted to anyone other than males. I ignored a part of my own identity because dating and marrying a Mormon male was the most important focus of my life. Not only did I lose important time for self-exploration in high school and college, but I had to break through the shame that I felt about my attraction to other genders. And even though I have been able to do much of that healing, I still don’t know how to share any of this with my family. I know that I still have a great deal of sexual healing ahead, but leaving the LDS church was the single most liberating, healing, and important decision that I have made in my life thus far.

Female, Heterosexual, 24, Actively attending

From the protestant Christian church (and school) I grew up in, I was not taught much about sex and had to learn from books, movies, or friends. My school’s sex-ed focused only on all the negative consequences that could come from premarital sex. I didn’t learn what an orgasm was until I was in late high school and had been masturbating (unknowingly) for nearly a decade (since age 7 or earlier, too early to remember).
When I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was introduced (mostly through my own research) to the idea that sex is a healthy, normal part of a relationship. I finally was taught that sexuality was created by God for us to enjoy, not given to us only as a necessary evil or a temptation to avoid. I look forward to when I can enjoy it with my future partner.
I am lucky to live in an area (Midwest US) that is not heavily “Mormon-populated” or strongly influenced by negative cultural aspects. My childhood was heavily influenced by the culture of the church I grew up in, and I believe I benefitted greatly from learning the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without the cultural influence. This doctrine presents a much healthier view of sexuality than what I grew up with, and I’m grateful for the circumstances that led me to where I am.

Female, Heterosexual, 17, Not attending

This is probably too much info, but I used to cry myself to sleep at night because I felt like a horrible person for masturbating. It really affected my self-esteem.

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