Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part II, No Sex

Introductory note #1: I’ve changed the title of my series and taken out the word “woman.” While I’ll still be speaking from my personal experience as a woman in the church, I’m really hoping that single men will comment and share their experiences as well.

Introductory note #2: This is not my post on the law of chastity itself. Instead, this is a post on trying to figure out how to deal with your sexuality when you’ve made a commitment to live the law of chastity. So, I don’t want the comments on this post to end up in a debate on the merits of the law of chastity (I’ll give you a chance to have this discussion at a later date). Instead, I want to discuss a more complicated (and to me, pertinent) problem: how do you deal with your sexuality when you’re committed to living this law, especially when there’s no clear end in sight?

I have a healthy attitude about my sexuality, but I don’t have a healthy relationship with it. Which I think is kind of inevitable if you’re a 31-year-old single member of the church who’s trying to live the law of chastity. Luckily, I don’t have a dysfunctional relationship with my sexuality–thus far, I’ve managed to avoid a pornography addiction, and my sex drive and I manage to live in the same body relatively peacefully a lot of the time.

But my relationship with my sexuality is complicated. My own strategy for dealing with things has been to take my sex drive and try to shove it as far down into my psyche as possible. And when and if it emerges, repeat. This worked pretty well through college, but it’s become increasingly more difficult the older I get. I think part of this is hormonal/physical–I’m quite aware of the studies that show that most women’s sex drives peak as they approach their 30s. I think part of it is also that my relationship with the church has changed over the past decade, and this has made me reconsider my relationship to my sexuality on a few occasions.

I spent a large portion of my early years trying to follow the counsel of my leaders and live the commandments with exactness. This meant that when sexual thoughts entered my brain (which they inevitably do unless you’re a completely asexual person, which I am not), I sang hymns, read my scriptures, etc. In fact, I repressed awareness of my sexuality so severely that I had difficulties negotiating relationships with members of the opposite sex–any encounter with someone I liked triggered the possibility that unwanted thoughts, emotions, and feelings would come rushing to the surface, and I didn’t know how to deal with these. So I made them all go away instead.

This is not a strategy that works indefinitely. First, if you actually want to date and have relationships, you have to be a little more open and a little less repressed. You have to be able to recognize attraction and act on it, which wasn’t possible in the state I lived in throughout much of high school and college. About the same time I was figuring out that I needed to be a bit more self-aware when it came to this issue, I was immersing myself in feminism (and critical theory more generally) and realizing that my relationship with the church was going to be more complicated than I initially had supposed. I could no longer obey leaders just because. I had to figure out if their counsel was the right counsel for me.

To make a long story short, I decided the church’s stance on sexuality didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and I got pretty close to throwing in the towel on the whole chastity thing. However, in the end, I (re-)decided to live the law of chastity, which was, incidentally, the right decision for me. However, at that point, full and total denial of my sexuality was no longer an option. It was here to stay, and I’ve since realized that my sex drive is quite healthy (well, as best as I can understand these matters given that I try to repress my sex drive almost all of the time).

And here’s where I’m stuck (which I suspect is where a whole lot of other singles my age are stuck). While I am by no means perfect, I generally do my best to avoid media imagery, etc., that might arouse unwanted thoughts and feelings. But honestly, even when I’m super careful about media exposure and am preoccupied with life stuff, my sex drive doesn’t go away. It’s quite annoying and frustrating, and to be honest, the church isn’t giving me a lot of helpful advice on how to negotiate a sex drive that won’t stay repressed. I can’t sing hymns and avoid all media for the next 30-40 years of my life (even doing that for the next 5 sounds daunting). Also, right now I’m not really dating, but things are likely to get more complicated when I end up in another relationship. Repression is much more challenging to maintain when you spend a lot of time with someone to whom you are attracted.

I am currently committed to living the law of chastity, and a lot would have to change in my life for me to reconsider this commitment. I know that I’m currently making the right decisions (or the best decisions I can make under the circumstances) in regards to my sexuality, and I accept that the gospel entails hardship and sacrifice. But I find that the church’s discourse on sex, sexuality, and chastity is pretty much non-helpful for someone in my situation–someone who’s in her 30s, hoping to get married at some point, but with no surety that that this will actually happen anytime in the immediate future (or ever). I’ll manage somehow down my current path, but I’m hoping to hear from others in a similar situation (i.e. have spent at least a decade of your life trying to negotiate this issue) and how you’ve managed dealing with your sexuality and living the law of chastity simultaneously. Or, perhaps, what you’ve learned from your difficulties doing so?

P.S. This is an issue of concern for me, but please don’t assume that this is the primary trial of my life. I have a meaningful, fulfilling life with many joys and sorrows, and the issues with my sexuality are often on the back burner. Therefore, if you tell me something like “go out and get a life and this problem will go away,” I will likely delete your comment.


  1. I could not repress my sexuality and eventually had sex with a prostitute. Then with a woman who was in a similar position as I. This didn’t bring happiness, nor sexual satisfaction in the long run. I’m currently happily married. My wife knows of my past actions (I didn’t feel it would have been fair to not be honest with her). I don’t regret the actions I took sexually. I obviously have no idea what kind of future I would have had if I didn’t have those sexual experiences when I did. I can only say that my desire for sex was much stronger than my ability to repress those desires. I don’t think it would have been wise of me to continue attempting to repress them. I believe there would have been negative psychological damage done. Is it disappointing that my first sexual experience was with someone who I had to pay? Of course. I would have loved to have it be someone I actually loved. That’s the fairy tale, right? Life is harsh for some while heavenly for others. I like that the church is realistic in its practice on the issue of sexuality, while I don’t like that it is not realistic in its preaching on the issue of sexuality. In practice, the church provides a lot of leeway for sinners of sexuality to repent. In preaching, the church tries to maintain a very high standard which is not always obtainable, and not just in this generation. It’s not like this generation is somehow more sexually promiscuous than previous generations. Our ability as a human race to understand sexuality has always been limited. We simply do not know enough of our own sexual drive to speak definitively.

  2. generally speaking, i dislike methods like repression, stigma and fear in dealing with sexuality. as with many other principles and commandments of the gospel, i have found that knowledge–particularly self-knowledge–is power. thus, my first real conscious effort toward understanding and dealing with the reality of my own sexuality was to create a “safe space” for myself to think about and discuss anything relating to it that would be otherwise inappropriate or awkward in any other context. thus, a new journal was born with the following preface:

    “a large portion of my musings is that i grew up feeling like sex was either dirty — too dirty to talk about — or sacred — too sacred to talk about. that leaves an enormous gap in between for us single, self-proclaimed and otherwise covenant women. we don’t all have the safe circumstance of being basically asexual before we marry to being passionately sexual afterward in one single step. no. we grow into our sexuality. for me, i learned a lot about it (in college) before i understood it or felt it. once i felt it i became exceedingly dissatisfied with my education– too secular (dirty), not enough covenant perspective (sacred). inasmuch as i feel i’ve gained a lot of ground recently in this perspective, and yet find myself without intimate companionship in my enlightenment, i’ve decided to dedicate this space to the musings of a covenant woman, for my future intimate and unlimited discussions and reference as well as for the support and encouragement of my future daughters. this also comes out in aid of my own health and well-being: a place to enjoy and discuss my thoughts, to show my transformation into a more sexually aware covenant woman. i seek to be who i am, to embrace all my parts, and to keep my appetites and passions within the bounds the Lord has set, to distinguish good from evil, to understand doctrine and truth better, to strengthen my resolve in keeping my covenants. and even just to grapple with those seasons of lust, those questions of biology, and all, as personal discoveries in the almighty quest to know and comprehend oneself– in relationship to God.”

    what i’ve learned through the years since creating this space, and what i’ve also read and heard from others, is that sexuality/sexual desire is not some external evil thing that can be put-off like the natural man, but oftentimes an emotional energy not so unlike the passion i feel for things like religion or music or friendship. as a professional musician i’ve learned to see sexuality/sexual desire as only one aspect of a much larger palette of sensuality to draw from in creating my artform. on stage and in the rehearsal and practice room i’ve learned to be embracing, inclusive, and open to all feelings and impulses, beautiful, empowering and strange– do not call them good or bad, only acknowledge.

    i know i run the risk of sounding really out there and artsy fartsy in this comment, but i genuinely think it’s a perspective to consider, and that the gospel of jesus christ is not at odds with it. i’ll admit, i’ve had my moments, of wanting to throw the whole law out, or at least just reconsider…but what can i say? i was twenty when i was endowed, so as long as i’ve been truly sexually aware, this has always been about a serious commitment.

    thanks for the series, seraphine; you have my attention 🙂

  3. Seraphine,

    Thanks for this bold post.

    But I find that the church’s discourse on sex, sexuality, and chastity is pretty much non-helpful for someone in my situation

    I think that’s true for people in almost all situations. For all the opportunity Mormon theology gives us to embrace sexuality I don’t think we’ve done so. Repressing all sexual thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem particularly healthy to me, but I don’t see much offered by the church as an alternative.

  4. Again, great post, Seraphine. This topic is nothing short of frustrating, and repression is pretty much the only way I’ve managed to deal with it, but you’re right, as I get older it becomes more difficult to navigate. I’m in a similar situation, 30 yrs old, unmarried and female, and I’d agree that there isn’t much support from church leaders in this area.

    The only rhetoric on single women and chastity I recall is from reading a talk by Sherri Dew where she states she still has to be careful what she reads/watches/listens to. I appreciated her candor, but it depressed me more than anything. I think I was (unrealistically) hoping that if I remain single into my 50’s, my desires would dry up – the thought of having to repress sexual urges for the rest of my life seems unnatural and horribly daunting. But if I want to keep my temple recommend, that’s just what I’ll have to do. *sigh*

    However, in a slighly irrelevant aside, I’m currently negotiating living the Law of Chastity while dating a non-member. I’m incredibly lucky (and still shocked) to have found someone that accepts me and my standards and is (usually) okay with not having sex, even at 8 months in. That being said, it has been *cough* incredibly challenging and frustrating at times, particularly in defining and not crossing the ‘line’. Maintaining For the Strength of Youth standards at 30 (“no passionate kissing” – what???) seems kind of ridiculous. Hopefully not TMI, but at times, the fear of having to deal with church discipline has been the only thing keeping me in check. I’m still committed to keeping the L. of C., I think it’s important, but the reasons are elusive when in the heat of the moment.

    And while my boyfriend is supportive and understanding, he doesn’t really get the significance of what the L. of C. means to me and what would happen if it was violated, and this is a bigger challenge than I thought – it can be kind of lonely holding down the fort by yourself.

  5. You’re bold, Seraphine. I can’t be quite that bold. Since I ordinarily use my real name in blogging, and since I am sure there are the usually fiendish readers and bloggers just waiting to ridicule, I resort to anonymity.

    What you have written about yourself pretty much sums up my commitment and experience and I have little to add. In my early 30s, I read a number of clinical works on sexuality — I think I thought they were “safe” because they were not intended to arouse passion, although fortunately, unlike isobel, I never thought or was taught that sex was intrinsically dirty. I did and do think everything that is meant to draw me to the brink of inappropriate action *is* dirty, though.

    I do daydream a lot and find that it helps — not sex daydreams, but about romance and developing emotional intimacy with someone, because I think that is what I miss more than the physical. And sometimes when I’m in a sour mood, snapping at everyone and dissatisfied with everything and generally a pain to be around, I suspect it’s partially a result of sexual frustration. Those old maid stereotypes have to come from somewhere.

    I do have a commitment to chastity. I do not expect to marry in this life; therefore I do not expect a legitimate avenue for expressing my sexuality in this life. The unendingness of it is harder to deal with than any day-to-day episode, so I try not to think of the unendingness of it.

  6. Not having sex for so long is an Abrahamic sacrifice. It’s not natural to wait, but it is commanded. I endured the long years before marriage by searching deep into the mysteries of godliness. If you can find answers to the great questions of the soul, through prayer, study and the scriptures, it goes a long way.

  7. anonymous, I think the question that everyone in this situation has to ask themselves is: are the emotional/psychological/sprititual/etc. consequences worse if I disobey the law of chastity or obey it? Generally, I think the church argues that disobedience is going to lead to worse consequences (and thus far in my life, I think this has been the case), but I think individuals have sense of their own circumstances and what they can and cannot handle. I’m hoping that my issues remain manageable (fingers crossed), but if they steadily get worse, I’ll tackle that issue when it arrives. I’m glad that you have found local church leaders who are understanding when it comes to individuals who have slipped up and made mistakes.

    isobel, that’s an interesting idea. I don’t really associate my sexuality with any kind of stigma or guilt, and I don’t see it as something that’s “dirty,” etc. I don’t think I have issues like that that I need to work through. I’m sure I do have issues (like I said, how can you not as a 30-something single in the church?), but I’m pretty afraid that if I open myself to these feelings, even if it’s something relative innocuous like journaling my thoughts, it’s going to make it that much harder to repress the feelings and keep myself sane.

  8. Jacob J, I agree that this is a topic that we’re not really talking about as openly as I think would be helpful for church members (single and married).

    Sterling, I do remember that post now that I look back at it (it’s been awhile). Thanks for the link–there were some potentially helpful good ideas in that thread.

    Martine, no, that’s definitely not TMI. I think one of the challenges of figuring out sexuality and the law of chastity simultaneously pertains to how to negotiate these issues when you’re seriously dating someone. And you’re right that it’s *hard*–I actually have a bunch more discussion of this in my actual LoC post, which is next. 🙂

  9. After my divorce from husband #1, I tried repressing sexual thoughts and it just made things worse. I took up meditating for other reasons, and found that the concept of noticing and accepting the thoughts helped far more than trying to repress them.

    I took Prozac for several years after my divorce. I found after I remarried that Prozac suppressed my libido something fierce. I was not aware of that side effect during my unmarried years except in retrospect.

    Not often, but occasionally, I would wake up having an orgasm. I considered these a reward for obedience and was grateful for them.

    Not having sex was much, much more difficult when I was dating Left Field. In hindsight, he was much more committed to not having sex than I was. Fortunately if one person is committed and strong about it, that’s all it takes.

  10. A-for-Anon, I can definitely understand why people would choose anonymity when discussing this topic. I’m glad that you found that daydreaming is helpful. It hasn’t worked for me because it’s often a slippery slope. “Safe” daydreaming is often a place where sexual thoughts and feelings more easily emerge, which leaves me feeling more frustrated. And you’re right that I tend to not think about the unendingness of it, though I’m still hoping that I will get married at some point (though, of course, I’m dealing with acknowledging to myself that it might not ever happen).

    cadams, I hadn’t really thought about searching out the mysteries of godliness as a solution, but I do find that when I’m busy and fulfilled in my life, this is an easier issue to deal with (i.e. avoid).

  11. Ann, I like that idea! I’ve spent some time thinking (and talking with Lynnette) about the whole “noticing and accepting” solution when it comes to dealing with emotions, and I’ve found it immensely helpful. I’ve never really thought about applying it in that way to sexual thoughts/feelings. I really paranoid about doing anything that would feed those feelings, but “noticing and accepting” is something I think I could handle and would probably be a bit healthier than my current strategy. I’ve also been meaning to do yoga for awhile to see if it would help with fatigue issues, and I’m wondering if that would put me more in touch with my body in an “aware but safe” kind of way.

  12. hm. it seems like what you refer to here as “unsafe” or, like, the “uh-oh…” tone of “i’m really paranoid about doing anything that would feed those feelings…” is very much related to what i was referring to as “dirty.” dirty as in unclean, unrighteous, BAD. maybe i’m misunderstanding, but isn’t guilt a factor in your paranoia??

    and really, what is the difference between a good and a bad sexual thought? the method of “noticing and accepting” seems to be about removing the label altogether, which is what i was shooting for at the end of my last comment, as a very positive way of dealing with sexual repression.

  13. isobel, I’ll try to be more clear. Like I said, I don’t see sexuality as a bad thing. When sexual thoughts enter my head, I don’t freak out–it’s a natural part of life. I usually make them go away quickly, however, because for me (and I’m assuming for other people?), sexual thoughts trigger bodily feelings (arousal of some kind or another). My problem is that I go through large periods of time where it’s very easy for me to get mildly aroused. I don’t think arousal is bad either, but (I find) if I do things that trigger any kind of arousal (media, writing, etc.), my body ends up wanting more, which I can’t pursue because of the whole LoC. I find it’s better to shut this whole process down before it begins, but it’s more to alleviate frustration than because I feel huge amounts of guilt. I hope this clarifies things.

  14. Something underlying many of these Mormon discussions on sexuality is the idea that sexual feelings are caused by outside stimuli, such that if one (for example, me) avoids sexual input (movies, books, magazines, etc., it won’t be a problem.

    I find this to be one hundred percent false. I hate all that even slightly sexual stuff 9never watch TV, few movies, mostly nonfiction books, skip over the embarrassing parts of those others) .

    But after my divorce (I realized only years later that porn might have been part of the problem that led to the divorce–that’s how sheltered I was, and most probably still am) found myself flooded with sexual feelings whenever I was even near a member of the opposite sex; flooded with sexual feelings when i wasn’t, just generally uncomfortable all the time–those feelings got in the way of me actually functioning. All sprung out of me, unadorned.

    So, no triggers for arousal at all, but still arousal. Conclusion? Sex is like hunger. It’s impossible to ignore. Some people become anorexic and stop eating, some become frigid, and well….. Each has its own problems.

    I can hardly believe that i’m the only one that feels turned on in what would otherwise be considered a vacuum.

    My solution? Lighten up everyone. Acknowledge that sexual feelings, like hunger, simply arise from not getting enough food or sex–nothing else need be added to the equation. A recognition that we’re sexual beings at our very core (not that we have to act on these feelings but we have them and it is not a sin) would go a long ways towards, uh, probably both helping people keep the law of chastity (because it would acknowledge that we’re sexual beings) and help people enjoy their sexuality at the appropriate moments.

    Or I’m just a bad person. Did I mention that I’m female?

  15. So, it’s-an-anonymous-sort-of-topic, what do you do with those sexual feelings? That’s the whole point, as far as I’m concerned, regardless of whether the trigger is internal or external. It’s fine to say “lighten up” and “acknowledge your feelings,” but what do you DO with them? You don’t give a hint as to what you think constitutes “enjoy[ing] … sexuality at the appropriate moments.”

    When you’re hungry, you eat — what’s the law of chastity equivalent? And if it’s Fast Sunday and you’re sitting in meetings with an hour or more to go, focusing on your hunger, letting it build to a fever pitch, makes it that much harder. Have you found some way of “acknowledging away” your hunger?

  16. Regarding this: ” to be honest, the church isn’t giving me a lot of helpful advice on how to negotiate a sex drive that won’t stay repressed,” I suspect the reason for that is that there probably isn’t a lot of helpful advice to give. The classic “sing a hymn, elder!” doesn’t work.

  17. An old internet correspondent said that he used the “sing a hymn” approach. As a result, every time he heard a specific hymn (Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel, I think) he got an erection.

  18. I like this whole sex/hunger analogy, makes a lot of sense to me. As a new coping mechanism, I think I’m going to substitute food for sexual gratification. Sounds like fun…and will probably guarantee my lifetime of spinsterhood. But at least I can plan for that… 😉

  19. I will all be anonymous for this thread. I had the view growing up the sex was fine, even to be enjoyed, if you were married. Eventually, I did get married. Several time while engaged, my future wife commented she had to restrain her urges.

    Well, literally after the Honeymoon, she started having pain problems during sex. I let her start calling the shots on when to have sex. Then it was pregnancy as a reason not to. Then, it was being too tired, or that I wasn’t there when I was on night shift. Or, her parents never said anything about sex, so it must be evil. Or rare in many people’s life’s. Or both. And, her sister that got divorced had a wonderful sex life, so that’s a reason not to try anymore.

    It’s now to the point where she only attempts to have sex 1 or 2 times a year. Even though I’m on Paxil, which is like Prozac in curbing sexual desires. Yet, I still have them.

    Porn is a dangerous, slippery slope, from the little I’ve dealt with it. Adultery would be betraying her & the Gospel. Masturbation is a lesser sin, but it is still limited in relief & intimacy afforded. I’m running out of answers!

    I’m not surprised that both single and divorced men & women in the Church are bouncing off the walls about sexual frustration. Sometimes, spouses go off the deep end, and divorce is the right thing to do. I know we like to point the finger of blame often, but some divorces are just.

    Substitute other things for sex? That has it’s pitfalls. Eating in place of sex can lead to some screwed up emotional associations, plus I have no desire to surpass 300 pounds. I suspect Martine is joking there, but it seems like some are making that substitution.

    Ann: That also shows a pitfall of substituting, real or joking!

  20. I find myself single and struggle with the same issues. Though I am much older. I have had several sex discussions over the last couple of months with my brother who is a bishop.

    He said the sex issue is very difficult and he has tons of married couples come to me where their sex life is a problem. He says it is very difficult in a culture that is constantly preaching to suppress a natural desire. On the other hand, there is very limited church information of healthy sex. He says he sees lots of messed up people that once they are in marriage have problems with that aspect of their marriage. And surprisingly a lot of it is from women who don’t get enough.

    He has also found that pornograhpy is often in the mix when a husband neglects his wife sexually. He said most of us would probably be very surprised if we knew all that was going on in the private lives of members of our ward.

  21. I think the issue is differnt for singles because there is simply no approved outlet for sexual expression, and theologically there is no rational for single s being sexually involved or fulfilled. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

  22. Thank you for this post. I am a 36 year old virgin. Wow, what a confession! Up until recently I have always thought I would “save myself” for marriage. I never thought I would reconsider my decision but I have.

    To say that I am sexually frustrated is an understatement. I have been dating someone who has previously been married and struggles with “self control” when it comes to sex. I finally found someone who wants sex as much and as often as I do. He is the one that has had to put the brakes on our sexual relationship. It is too difficult for me to stop him because I want IT ALL. He isn’t ready for marriage. I’m not ready for sex before marriage. It is too hard for me to deal with emotionally so I have ended the relationship.

    I wish I could say that I’m taking a “leap of faith” trusting that Heavenly Father will send blessings for keeping my temple covenants, but I’m heartbroken. I resent Heavenly Father because I chose him above the man I love and want to build my life with. I know this is a trial of my faith, putting Heavenly Father above what I want right now, but I feel like “Lot’s wife” looking backwards, longing for what I left behind. I’m not sure it’s worth it anymore.

  23. cyclingred, I think it completely makes sense that sex would be something that brings people in to talk to their bishop. However, as WendyJ points out, I think the issues are different for singles. With married people, the issues I hear most about are 1) trying to negotiate very different sex drive levels (like with Anon4 on this thread), or 2) hang-ups because the church teaches us to suppress desires, etc. I’m sure these are immensely difficult issues to negotiate. Still, with singles there is no approved outlet–you can’t go to counseling and try to resolve your sex life issues because you aren’t allowed to have a sex life. (I’m not trying to argue that singles necessarily have it worse–it’s just different to negotiate a relationship where your partner won’t have sex vs. a life where you’re not allowed to have sex.)

    Anon (24), I’m so sorry for your heartbreak. I wish I had some kind of reassurance to offer aside from words that will sound somewhat empty given your current pain and distress. I do believe the Lord will bless you, though it may not be in the way you want or when you want. And things may really suck for awhile first.

  24. Wow. I come to this discussion from a different place. I finally decided, at 30, that I would figure out my sexuality on my own. It’s been freeing in many ways.

    It didn’t lead to any addictions of any kind. It didn’t lead to thoughts of guilt or evil. It didn’t put a rift between God and myself, though I can’t go to the temple anymore, I’m ok with that because the temple, honestly, was never a place I felt really good in.

    I had a very sensitive boyfriend who was there and caring and taught me a lot about sex. I have come to realize that it is possible to feel close to God and not deny my sexuality as well.

    It is a hard road to travel. When you’re not married you have to take into account the other people your partners have been with. It takes a lot of guts to tell the man you love to go and get tested before anything is going to happen. And still, even then, you have to be very careful in avoiding a lot of things that are just not worth the chances. You have to learn about condoms and birth control and so many things you didn’t deal with when being abstinent. However, there are very good and logical ways to do this and that has been a good education for myself.

    One night stands were never ok for me and so it still does take a lot of work to actually get to a place of intimacy and sex. I have more understanding and empathy for married couples who find themselves in bad sexual situations. Truth be told, from what I’ve seen, there are more bad sexual relationships going on in marriages than good. I wonder if it’s because one or the other isn’t sure what they want/like etc….because even the thoughts of sex were off limits.

    For me, learning what I like and don’t like, learning about sex in general has been very rewarding and satisfying. I know this isn’t helping the post at all, I just wanted to share the fact that having sex, for me, didn’t do so many things I had been taught that it would. I always heard that once you had it it became SO much easier to have it again and again and to get careless. That’s not true. Its just as easy or not easy to control it as it was before I started having sex. It’s helped me better understand problems in sex. I’ve now had a few partners and honestly, only one of them was a really good match sexually. This makes me grateful that I know more things to see and understand when finding a life partner. It helps to go into a relationship knowing my limits and desires. It has helped me know the frustrations and figure out ways to deal with them ( I dated a man who only wanted to have sex once a week and that was a huge struggle between us) et etc etc.

    It’s, in all honesty, made me feel normal and aware instead of infantile and repressed. And while I don’t have a boyfriend now, it’s still a struggle to not have sex, but at the same time, I am in control and I know myself and my body. I know how to handle things and I am not frustrated anymore. It’s been the best decision I’ve made the past two years.

  25. I admire you, Stella. I know I had a single’s ward bishop who was very understanding of older singles who felt they were unable or unwilling to remain celibate. Some of these singles still held callings in the ward, etc. One of my RS counselors (I inherited a presidency) was living with her boyfriend. I had a really hard time with this, because I was “trying to be good” and felt her actions were a slap in the face (or maybe I was just jealous!) After about a year, her boyfriend ended up joining the church and they got married.

  26. In every singles ward there are: people who aren’t having sex because there is no opportunity; people having sex because they believe in the gospel and exercise self-control; people who are having sex and feel guilty, often confessing; and people who have sex and feel no guilt or remorse, and often find it mentally/emotinally/physically healthy.

  27. I think you probably define the LoC more restrictively than I ever have. I never felt like I needed to suppress feelings of arousal or avoid sexual feelings altogether. Not sure where I got that idea. I also came to decide, in my mid-20s, that masturbation per se is not a confession-required type of sin, if it even is a sin, and furthermore, that anything not involving intercourse really was none of my bishop’s business. I ended up dating a couple of non-members who were just fine and dandy operating within the parameters I set, and had a very fulfilling non-penetrative sex life.

    When I started dating the man who is now my husband, our activities were much more restricted (we kept our pants on) because I wanted to get married in the temple, to him, soon, and wanted to steer completely clear of anything I would feel remotely bad about not confessing.

    I don’t have any regrets about my level of sexual activity before marriage. I do have regrets about one evening that was not characterized by the level of mutual respect and affection I otherwise experienced with my (not all that many, under 5) partners. One very important thing I learned was that my line in the sand became easier and easier to defend the more I did so. Maybe that seems counterintuitive. But the more I didn’t have intercourse, the easier it became to continue not having intercourse.

  28. A late response, but I believe the strict ascetic life for LDS singles is very dangerous to future sexuality. I speak as a married man whose wife so repressed her sexuality that she is unable to let go when we are intimate. This has robbed me of a truly intimate relationship and is has damaged our marriage almost irreparably.

    To deny LDS singles of masturbation is incredibly cruel and very damaging to they psyche. A few years ago in a moment of unusual candidness, my otherwise very conservative mother (and temple worker for years) made the same comment to my single sister in her thirties.

  29. Well, every person is different, and what may work for a teenage boy might not work for a 35-year-old woman. There isn’t really a perfect formula for staying chaste in a sex obsessed world. There is a basic formula that works for many people and situations, and I think that the Church’s council does work for many people. But not everyone fits into the same mold.

    I am very similar to you. Near 30, with zero sexual experience with another man. Certain things just can’t be suppress, it doesn’t mean you have to act on them, but they will manifest themselves whether you want them to or not. For me, my downfall is my active, vivid, imagination. If I fantasize enough about sex, I can have an orgasm without touching myself. The more I try to fight it, the easier the orgasm is to achieve. This has been very distressing for me since I made a vow not to masturbate, and even though I don’t touch myself, my thoughts are always ever present and my sexual desires can run me over like a truck without warning. I’ve talked to two different bishops and my father about it, and they all have different opinions about whether/when it counts as masturbation, and I sometimes feel like I’m losing my mind with guilt and frustration. Just when I’m doing really well and think I might be able to forsake the transgression, I wake up with an orgasm. Rather than fulfilling my desires, it just pushes me back to square one all over again.

    I think one of the most difficult things is, that I have mention before, is that I’ve talked to 3 priesthood leaders for guidance, but have received little help. Not that they didn’t want to help me, or brush me off, but that I’m starting to realize that they don’t really know how to help. They have never been in this situation. They all married young and have never had to know what it feels like to be a 30-something virgin. They don’t understand because they’ve never experienced what I’m going through. However, I am beginning to realize how I can help myself.

    I have realized that this will always be something that I will have to deal with if I don’t get married (or even if I do get married). No matter how good I am, or how chaste, I will have these sexual feelings for a long time. So when they happen, I just have to realize they what they are. I don’t beat myself up when they enter my mind, but I think the key is not to dwell on them. I let them pass through, but keep them moving. When stop and think about them, that’s when I get into trouble. When I have those feelings, I don’t just “ignore” them. I seek out why I should not give in, rather than why I should. I talk to my friends who are in similar situations, I look up council (why I’m here posting this in the first place) and I talk to the Lord. Singing hymns and keeping busy never really worked for me, so I have just have to confront it and say “No, I can’t and I won’t, no matter how much I want to,” and when I do slip up, I speedily repent. Even if it’s the 600th time, I try to always repent and to sincerely promise to do better next time. My ways of dealing with it may not work for everyone, but they work for me.

  30. DW-Bravo! great post. I have a couple oponiins and by no means am I recommending this to anyone. What a person does with their own bodies is a personal decision.I am a devout Roman Catholic, my boyfriend is a devout Roman Catholic. We are not what American’s call cafeteria Catholics picking and choosing what to accept or not accept. As a homosexual man its always been a struggle what I wanted to do with my body or my feelings vs what my faith ask of me. DW perhaps you being an x-catholic you had these same struggles. One thing I knew I could not do was throw my faith away. I can’t do that. So if I sinned I went to confession, try my best to live the life God ask of me, sometimes I did okay job other times I didn’t. Me and my boyfriend felt we were living a lie. We say we were good Catholics but then we continue to sin. We were total hypocrites. We did try to do what was asked but we didn’t try hard enough. At least people who left the faith were more honest than we were. Its true.After our last confession which my whole family goes together all 11 of us, which was on June 26th. Nicola (BF) and I talked and we shared our thoughts we decided the time of charades and lies were over. We had to make a decision are we going to live the faith God ask of us or are we going to leave the faith. This luke-warm crap had run its course. We decided it was time to live the life God asks of us. We have been celibate since the time of our last confession. Has it been difficult? Yes, you could say that. But life is difficulty. We take up our cross offer it to Christ and we take it a day at a time.In no way to am I pushing this on anyone but any gay catholic must come to terms with their sexuality and faith. What they do with it is their decision. Grazie, davide


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